The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) – Review

The night circus : a novelThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Age: Adult
Genre: Magical Realism / Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday, 2011
ISBN: 9780385534635
387 pages

Find this book at your local library

The circus appears without warning, mysteriously arriving in cities around the world for a span of 13 years starting in 1886. As the circus travels, it grows and develops more tents of illusionary magic to amaze all the viewers. Open from midnight to dawn, the circus is filled with an aura of magic that leaves the reveurs wanting more. At the center of the Cirque de Reves (Circus of Dreams) are Celia and Marco. Bound by a binding spell from their youth, Celia and Marco engage in a challenge, a show-off of skills and talents using the circus as the venue for their feats.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it as other readers and bloggers have. As her debut novel, I think Erin Morgenstern did an amazing job creating this magical world and I look forward to her future endeavors. She created intricate and detailed characters in a world equally complex. There was a lot of character development over the course of the novel, which I always look for in books. The pacing was fantastic. Although a lot happened in each chapter, I never felt as if the story was rushed. This book was the perfect read for a rainy day, it definitely has that dreary and dark atmosphere throughout the entire novel. Perhaps because almost all the scenes take place in the middle of the night.

The setting was unique, but also reminiscent of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I loved the struggle between the magicians, as well as seeing Celia’s and Marco’s relationship develop and evolve over time. I even found the ending to be appropriate, given the restraints and the anticipated outcome of the battle of skills between Celia and Marco. I loved Celia’s character for her strength, her vulnerability and her persona. Marco…I didn’t like as much. I found him manipulative, and not very trustworthy. The twins were a joy to read about, I wish there had been more time spent on them…perhaps in a future sequel to the novel?

What kept me from loving this book? Bailey, for one. I never understood his role in the novel. Why was he so special? Each chapter had a date and time, and the novel jumps back and forth in time before finally meeting together at the end. I found that confusing at times, because it often paused the flow of the novel while I skipped back chapters to check facts and make sure everything was still aligned (which it always was). The last thing that prevented me from loving this book was the vagueness of the rules of the challenge. The whole point of the challenge was revealed slowly over the course of the dozen or so years of the circus. It was frustrating for both Celia and Marco as they were kept in the dark as much as the reader.

I’ve heard rumors of this novel already being optioned for the big screen. I would love to see Edward Norton pick up the role of Marco, although I’m not sure who should play Celia.

Book 56 of 2011

I have a fondness for magical realism books, especially those involving magic and magicians. I’ve put together a list of titles that have a similar mood/theme as the Night Circus for those that want more of this genre:


Water for elephants : a novel  Vaclav & Lena : a novel  Swamplandia!

The autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb  Prospero lost   The man from beyond : a novel

Carter beats the Devil : a novel  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell  The art of disappearing

  1. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  2. Vaclav & Lena – Haley Tanner
  3. Swamplandia – Karen Russell
  4. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb – Melanie Benjamin
  5. Prospero Trilogy – L. Jagi Lamplighter
  6. The Man From Beyond – Gabriel Brownstone
  7. Carter Beats the Devil – Glen Gold
  8. Jonathon. Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  9. The Art of Disappearing – Ivy Pochoda
  10. The Tempest – William Shakespeare

2 responses to “The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) – Review

  1. As a circus fan and one who enjoys magical realism, this book intrigues me. It puts me in mind of The Circus of Dr. Lao.

    Tossing It Out
    Please see my guest post at:
    So You Want to be a Writer?

  2. I tried to read Vaclav & Lena a while ago and I couldn’t get into it. I need to try again because other people seemed to really like it.

    I loved The Night Circus. I would be a bit fearful of a movie, though. Would it be able to capture the magic?

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