Source: Public Library
The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Usually when I see a particular book being the center of discussion online, I try to wait until talk dies down before running out and reading it myself. With the R.I.P. challenge going on right now, I decided that The Night Circus sounded too good to pass up. I think the book is worth the hype it’s getting though there are a few things about it that was problematic.
The Night Circus is the tale of Celia Bowen and Marco, two gifted illusionists who are forced to compete against each other as adults by their mentors. Celia and Marco have no idea why they have to compete or that the tournament is to the death. With the help of a talented group, Marco’s mentor is able to pull off the perfect battleground for the pair – Le Cirque de Reves, a circus that’s only opened at night and is filled with wonderful attractions. The tournament doesn’t affect just the pair but also everyone around: from those who work for the circus to the people who attend almost every time they can to those who helped to create it. While many people think the circus is the best in the world, others know its true powers and those close to it will never be the same.
Forgive my vague description, but it’s hard to describe this book. Luckily for readers Morgenstern didn’t have that same problem. One of the book’s greatest strengths is that the descriptions are so vivid. The circus is not only the setting but also a character. Readers can easily imagine the black and white stripes of the tents, the red scarves of the circus’s most devoted followers, the dress that Celia wears that changes colors to match whoever she’s talking to at the moment. This is a great book to study to learn how to describe a setting. Andi wrote about the book’s cover and design which sadly I missed since I was reading The Night Circus on Edison (my Kobo ereader).
I found some of the characters very interesting. The twins, Poppet and Widget, were a delight to read about as they roam around the circus with their new friend, Bailey. Not all the characters were as fleshed out as I would have preferred. Celia the child and teen who refused to answer to the name Miranda and had her fingertips sliced off by her father/mentor Prospero was much more interesting to read about than Celia the adult. The same goes with Marco though I think the only interesting thing about him was the thing about his physical appearance. Did anyone figure out who Marco’s mentor, the man in the grey suit, really is? I’m pretty sure that I did and was so happy with myself.
There’s so much that the author builds on in the book but there’s so much that also doesn’t get explained or isn’t as detailed like the back story of Tsukiko the contortionist. I really wished that readers knew more about Tsukiko along with Prospero and what exactly pushed this cold man to try his last trick. (It was an awesome trick.) I wouldn’t have cared if this book had turned into a chunkster (400+ pages) if it meant that I learned more about the characters I was interested in.
Besides some of the characters, another problem I had with this book is the plot. I was pretty let down by the disappointing climax that’s more of a small hill than a climax. That didn’t stop me from reading the book but the disappointment wasn’t something that I could easily overlook.
The Night Circus isn’t just some fantasy book about a circus. After reading it and letting everything about it turn over and over in my head, I’ve realized that the story of the two illusionists is also a story about storytelling, living your life to the fullest, and learning that no matter how powerful you are, there are some things you can’t always escape. Flaws and all, The Night Circus is an engaging read that I can easily recommend to those who enjoy fantasy. I look forward to reading more of Morgenstern’s work in the future. My rating: 5 out of 5.
One of my favorite quotes:
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really ending, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”