the Little Red Reviewer

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

Posted on: November 2, 2011

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

published Sept 2011

Where I got it: the library

Why I read it:  Cuz everyone is doing it.

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Le Cirque de Reves, the Circus of Dreams, follows no set schedule.  It simply appears where it needs to be.  Circus tents in stark black and white stripes tempt you from your every day doings to visit a magical place that only opens at night. Tents might feature illusionists, or contortionists, or trees ablaze with wishes or bottles full of places. You never know until you look, and you better take advantage of it while you can, for it will disappear without notice.

Really, how could anyone possibly say no to that?  Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus has been getting buckets of attention lately.  I saw an entire end cap  of this book at Barnes and Noble the other day, a wall of black and white and red and silver, you couldn’t not stop as you walked by.  I watched people approach tentatively, pick up a book, look at it, and smile. It was as if they were petting kittens for the first time.

But I suppose the concept of this story isn’t unlike a soft purring kitten with eyes you could drown in:

Once upon a time, there were two magicians.  They were friends of a sort, but also fierce competitors. Each believed his way of doing magic was the correct one, and that his friend was wrong.  The two magicians would pit their best students against one another, each student coming to the venue having learned their master’s style of magic.  The students are usually aware they are involved in an epic competition, but the rules are secret, as are the victory conditions. And when a winner prevails, everyone will know right away.  It is an unexpected development when the two current students fall in love.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you, because part of the beauty of this book is how the plot very slowly comes together, with Morgenstern giving us many short chapters that aren’t in chronological order.  Don’t let the non-chronological order thing make you nervous, there is no better way of telling this story.

Morgenstern focuses on the beauty of everything, showing us impossible illusions inside circus tents, paths that circle in upon themselves, labyrinths with ever changing rooms, magical bonfires, and more.  Immersing us in sights and smells and colors and patterns, Morgenstern’s words are a paintbrush, splashing vibrant paint on stretched canvas, creating an endless mural. If for no other reason, read this book for the incredible visuals.  If you’re looking for something that’s easy to get into and pleasurable to read, this is the book for you.

Magic works because we don’t resist it. If you insist on looking behind the curtain all you’ll find are frayed edges.

The beautiful visuals and flowing language make up for most of my little nit picks, as this is a very good book and you should read it. But to be honest, it did fall short for me.  I’d have loved to gotten to know the characters a little better, and I found the conclusion fairly predictable. Most of all, I wish Morgenstern had taken more risks with this, taken conversations just a little further, or provided just a little more background on our two magicians.  The Night Circus is not a character based story, so me being annoyed at something that’s not supposed to be there is tantamount to be pissed because there isn’t a T-Bone on the menu at the Vegan restaurant. Regarding the predictability, this isn’t a story about the end, it’s a story about the journey, so again, me finding it predictable isn’t the worst thing that could have happened. it’s just a thing,  just me insisting on looking behind the curtain.

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19 Responses to "The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern"

[…] The Little Red Reviewer has her review up. Go check it out. Share this post:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in TINEB and […]

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I agree that the writing was so beautiful and the images so visible that it made the few flaws not matter at all. I felt like the characters could have been better developed, but really, the true main character was the circus. I still loved it, though.

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Oh, your reviews are gold. GOLD, I say. These lines? “I watched people approach tentatively, pick up a book, look at it, and smile. It was as if they were petting kittens for the first time.” Perfection. I have this one on my wishlist for sure (and I may, like you, look behind the curtain…), and I’m hoping I won’t be disappointed.

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I’m happy you liked my funny metaphors, but now I worry that my review may have soured you on the book? :(

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Indeed, these were my thoughts, the lovely prose is easy to get lost in, but yeah I was attempting to look behind the curtains and kept seeing frayed edges too, expecting more world building and characters building. It’s good though, just not mind-blowing, as it could have been much better had Morgenstern taken more risks.

Nice review!

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I loved this book! It obviously has a few of the ‘first book’ flaws, but the writing entirely makes up for that. I am both excited and worried about what she comes up with next!

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I agree with the fact that the beauty of her writing allowed me to overlook some flaws that I would usually find annoying. This is a book I am glad I read, but I don’t think I will obsess over like so many others.

Wonderful review as always.

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I’m glad I’ve read your review as I think it’s made me get off the fence with this one. I’d been humming and ahhing about would or wouldn’t I read it. I’ve read such a lot of glowing reviews but then I’ve also read a couple that gave me doubts and it sounds like yours and a couple of other comments here second those other opinions. That being said I do like beautiful writing!!
Thanks
Lynn :D

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I feel crappy about dissing on this book. a zillion people are going to read it, it’s going to be the star of a million book clubs, it’s going to be a movie starring beautiful people wearing beautiful clothing.

But I’m picky, and finicky, and I want a book to have everything, not just prose (prosal??) beauty. I want a book to be more than film-able. :(

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Don’t feel bad. That’s what you are supposed to do. I love the honesty. (And the metaphors!) Honestly, I read the same way, it takes a lot, a whole hell of a lot for a book to blow me away in every way and it happens so rarely. I roll my eyes a bit if someone tries to suggest a book is perfect, because I probably won’t find it that way even if I love it. Aye, when did I become such a critic? LOL. Great review really! P.S. I keep thinking of you because looking around my living room right now I have EVERY one of the steampunk reads you recommended…and a few more..and still haven’t read a single one of them. 37 hour days, please?!!

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thanks. I do love it when a book does totally blow my mind, and same with you, it doesn’t happen that often (and when it does, it’s usually a super dark, super niche type of book). I’m thrilled to hear you’ve got bunches of steampunk! I solve my “I have a ton of ______ that I really want to read” by doing a themed book reading month, maybe something like that would work for you?

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The theme month is a really good idea actually! What month goes with steampunk? lol.

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I really enjoyed this book but I also wished there been more of a focus on character development. I would have really enjoyed getting to know these characters better, especially the twins. Though the writing was beautiful and I just regret that such a circus can’t really exist.

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I felt the same way. I wish the characters would have been a little more richly constructed. I enjoyed the story and I hated to criticize any of it. The circus itself overpowered the characters. I’m still recommending it, but I thought it could have been much more.

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I have been curious about this book for a while because the author wrote it for NaNoWriMo and wrote a pep talk this year that was full of lovely adverbs and analogies. I seems like it would be a good, leisurely holiday read and now I am rather excited to try it out. Thanks for the tip!

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I too agree that it was a bit predictable, but I loved the way she told the story that I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the circus, the imagery, the way she told her tale. I’m looking forward to this being made into a movie, I think it will be stunning.

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[…] Little Red Reviewer: “Don’t let the non-chronological order thing make you nervous, there is no better way of telling this story.” […]

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[…] Anyway! The Little Red Reviewer has her review up. Go check it out. […]

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[…] The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday) Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown; Century) God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade) Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh (Night Shade) Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime) […]

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