Review: The Night Circus

A dazzling, enchanting but slightly boring story of love and the dark side of magic. 3/5*

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there when yesterday it was not.

This book tells a story of two young magicians bound together by a fierce competition constructed by their ancient masters. To prove themselves they need to test their powers and imagination in a grand venue of Le Cirque des Rêves – a mysterious circus dressed in black and white stripes open only at night. The goal is simple – use the circus to display your skill, be better than your opponent. That is until Celia and Marco fall in love with each others creations, and ultimately and passionately, with each other. Life for the two rivals turned lovers, performers and the circus itself takes a dark turn when they realise that this game has no winners and no happy endings.

“Everything I have done, every change I have made to that circus, every impossible feat and astounding sight, I have done for her.”

I feel like The Night Circus is one of those books people either absolutely love or really dislike. To my great disappointment, I belong to the latter group. From the moment I read the synopsis, the premise which seemed to have everything completely enchanted me – magical competition, a tragic love story and a mysterious circus. The recipe seemed perfect, so you can imagine my surprise when I finished the book and felt absolutely nothing.

Erin Morgenstern is an incredibly talented writer. In her debut, she does a wonderful job of setting up lavish scenes and creating an atmosphere of danger and mystery and throughout the whole book, you feel like you’ve entered a dazzling and dreamy world full of wonders. However, even though the circus is supposed to make you feel giddy, you never shake the feeling of darkness lurking in the shadows. Unfortunately, that is not enough for me to make for a truly enjoyable reading experience.

“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon. Is not the dragon the hero of his own story?”

The book is around 500 pages long, but I felt like it could have easily been 200 pages shorter. The pacing was so slow I had problems picking it back up throughout the first two-thirds. And by the time the action picked up, it was too late for me to care. The characters felt flat, underdeveloped and just unlikable. When it came to the final conflict, I simply didn’t care who will live, who will die, what will become of the circus or its performers or even how it all ties up together. I turned the last page on a ‘meh’ and that is a problem for me.

I definitely recommend you read The Night Circus because it’s a remarkable piece of fiction, unlike anything I’ve ever read. It will enchant you, it will charm you and you will fall in love with the words. But there is a small chance that you, like me, will also be a bit bored. 

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