Sometimes, it just takes a little magic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Released: Sept 13, 2011
Pages:  400 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
My Rating: 3.5 stars/5

Received as a gift for Christmas 2012

Here is the synopsis from the author’s website:

“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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.”

Had it not been for the hype, I may never have heard of this book, though I am glad I did. After having read Water for Elephants last spring, and finding myself wrapped up in the fantastical world of the circus, I didn’t think Sara Gruen’s imagery and vivid world could be matched. I was wrong. Erin Morgenstern’s debut work not only impressed me, but I think outshone Water for Elephants in a lot of ways. While the latter was primarily a story of forbidden love, The Night Circus focussed on the notion of magic, real magic. The ability to have it be an inherited talent or purely the ability to teach so absolutely to a worthy candidate, are the two opposing sides of the battle. The mentors, Mr. A.H.- and Hector Bowen (aka Prospero), feel no need to settle this debate themselves, instead, choosing a student through the years and training him or her in their own way, and pitting them against each other in a contest of magic and endurance.

My inner, not-so-buried child has always been fascinated by magic, which would explain why the Harry Potter series have, and always will hold a special place in my heart. They were released at a time in my life where socializing, friends, meeting movies and hanging out at malls absorbed all of my free time. J.K. Rowling’s world of magic and mystery was my excuse to read for pleasure again, and to talk about it too. It’s because of this highly fantastical precedent for literature primarily speaking about magic that I began The Night Circus with an open mind.
Morgenstern won me over by the end of the first chapter.  I was already in awe of this new author’s ability to imagine, to so fully immerse their reader into the inspiring and down right dangerous world of magic. A truly descriptive writer, perhaps my only criticism would be the lack of “show-don’t-tell”. All major plot points were fully flushed out, and described in the utmost for the reader. I quickly got over this seeming disappointment when I discovered the novel to transitions from era to era, year to year with every chapter. THis critique of mine quickly ensure that I did not miss a beat. Friends of mine found themselves flipping back to previous chapters to make sure there were no missing pages from where the previous chapter left off. The author it appeared, had every confidence that her audience would be fully tuned-in at all times, and charged through in this pattern. Telling the same story, from different viewpoints in different cities, countries and years. Personally, I felt this tactic added so much more depth to The Night Circus; others would mark this is their biggest complaint.
As the fourth outing of my 50 Book Pledge for 2012, I would say this was the perfect follow-up to the Hunger Games trilogy. Though not a futuristic, dystopian outing, The Night Circus provided just as vivid an environment as Suzanne Collins was able to with District 12 and the Capitol. Every minute detail was accounted for and had reason to exist in Le Cirque des Rêves. With the expanse of plot and details Morgenstern included, The Night Circus was not devoured nearly as quickly as the Hunger Games, and I had no complaint.
For those looking for a good, dense, descriptive read; you’ve met your match. I would recommend this book to anyone who would listen and doesn’t mind a sense of whimsy and fantasy. I would rate this 3.5 stars out of 5, not the perfect novel, but a great read and fantastic effort!
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