The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Mass Market Paperback, 508 pages
Published June 2012 by Anchor Books
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
This is the second time I read this book, the first time was in 2013 and I remembered loving it to pieces, despite not understanding most of it. I didn’t read as many books then compared to now, so I guess I was easily awed by the magical concept and the stories within. However, in my reread, I found myself not liking it as much as I did; in fact I reduced the rating quite drastically from 4.75 stars to 3.5 stars.
Does that mean I dislike the book? No I did not, since I really enjoyed it when I read it. The Night Circus is not a type of book where you can’t read it quickly, you need to savor it slowly just like the visitors are exploring the circus. When I first read it, I finished it in 2 days and really enjoyed it. As you can see from my early review above, I thought there were only 3 plot. However, on the second read, I realized that it has been one continuous plot all along, with four different start points. They will merge in the middle and flows together, with our experience in the circus serves as the side story. Rereading the book 4 years later, I also noticed a lot of things have been foreshadowed waaay earlier. It’s just we need to pay attention to the details because off-hand comments and small details can be an important part of the story in the future. The ending is also bitter sweet, yet it also perfect because it closes the book at full circle.
The circus itself is still as magical as I remembered it. The word choices for the description were spot on, creating exquisite and vivid details of the circus. It also creates sensory experience of the circus, for example in Widget’s tent or in the Ice Garden. My favorite tent in the circus is definitely the ice garden and the cloud room.
These spot on word choices also extends to the world outside the circus and to the characters. It’s very easy for me to immerse in the world outside of London- say, the grayness of London or the opulence of Chandresh’s house. I also find it easy to imagined what the characters feel and how they will react to the situation, however, I wasn’t connected enough with them to care or invested with them.
This distance with the characters was my one of the reason why I wasn’t as invested in Celia’s and Marco’s romance as much as I had been. The writing doesn’t help either in this case, it describes too much rather than letting us feel what the couple felt. And since the story is told from third person pov, we can’t get any closer to the characters either. Another reason why I wasn’t buying it because how insta love they were. They met like once or twice and then they were in love. I think the initial attraction was because of the knowledge that they are each other’s opponent, causing them to think about each other constantly, and that’s where the love stems.
While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, it’s still a delight to return to this world, especially the circus. It was as magical as I remembered it and despite being clearer to me, some parts of the plot still felt like a mystery for me. I still recommend it for you who loves reading about circus and magic, this book really excels at both of them.