Recently, I completed Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus. This 512-paged fantasy novel was a #1 national bestseller, and has also received numerous accolades. Some of which from the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and USA Today, as well as multitudes from respected authors of all genres.
One quote that best embodies the novel is from Newsday, which is the leading news source in Long Island, New York, that reads “Reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical,”.
I decided to read this novel because of a friend’s suggestion. Her description of the novel was very vague. I was intrigued by the novel particularly because of how difficult a time she had describing the novel, as she usually is very proficient with her book suggestions. The book seemed much more complex and unique than the other novels I had recently read.
The novel centers around Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams. This peculiar circus arrives mysteriously at locations all across the world, opening after sunset and closing at dawn. No announcements are necessary, as the word of the circus spreads throughout the area with an overwhelming speed. Inside the circus is unlike any other experience, with an array of tents that defy all logic, so unlike reality that no one, not even the performers, fully comprehend how the circus was created, or how it operates. Within the circus, an intense competition is underway, between Celia and Marco. Both were trained from a very young age to distort reality for the purpose of the competition, knowing only of the competition’s existence with absolutely no details, not their opponent, or any of the rules. One of the most important details being that the game will only be done when only one magician remains alive. And though the competition seemingly could not become any more complex, the two fell deeply in love, putting the entire circus, and all of its performers in an inescapable peril.
This book closely resembled The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I thought this because of the strikingly similar plots. In The Night Circus, two men, the infamous Prospero the Enchanter, and the man in a grey suit, selected their players in a magical competition, Celia and Marco. In The Game of Love and Death, two entities, Love and Death, selected their players, Henry and Flora, for a game, where if they lost, the result would be the death of one of the players. Another similarity between the two novels is the style in which the authors write. Both authors have a very formal writing style, with long, elaborate sentences, and an extensive vocabulary.
One aspect of the novel that I appreciated was how there were many chapters embedded in the story, that described different elements of the circus through the eyes of an attendee. I appreciated how the author included those chapters because they helped me to understand the true experience of the circus, and how difficult it was for them to comprehend how the experience could even be remotely possible. It was also helpful to understand why the circus-goers were so enraptured by the circus, and how they were able to believe that the workings of the circus were simply brilliant illusions, not actual magic.
The character development in this novel was surprisingly conceivable. The characters are first introduced as small children, when Celia was reunited with her father, and when Marco was chosen out of an orphanage, where they were magically bound to the competition, so there was no way to escape it. There were numerous flashback chapters were the reader witnessed the process of the two learning magic and preparing for the competition. The timeline focused mainly on the circus, following the two’s involvement in the circus, Celia as the featured illusionist, and Marco controlling the circus secretly as the assistant of the circus proprietor. The timeline ending of course, just beyond the termination of the competition. At the very beginning, Celia was a young girl with an uncontrollable temper, who was very impulsive, particularly witnessed with her unfiltered comments. As the competition proceed, she began to express herself more effectively, and of course, she became a much more skilled magician.
Marco, as a young boy, asked many questions, as did Celia regarding the competition. He was very observative, a quality which if anything heightened with age, more interesting in watching for people’s reactions or facial expressions rather than the actual cause of them. Marco, as he grew older, became much more reserved, preferring to capture the essence of and observe a party rather than actually interacting with those in attendance. As fantasy is concocted with a blatant disregard for reality, I had anticipated the characters to magically transform, or something along those lines. However, each and every character was crafted with the characteristics of a real person. The only true element of fantasy in the novel was the presence of magic.
Finally, I was interested in a specific passage in this novel that reads “The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world.”
What I found interesting about this passage was how it showcases the vast lexicon of the author. This passage is a quintessential example of the author’s craft; long, mellifluous sentences, with varied structures and punctuation, and many details. I think this passage accurately represents the author’s distinctive way of writing.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I would rate it an 8.5 out of ten. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and I look forward to reading any of this author’s future novels.