Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Gift from a friend

Summary (from Goodreads):

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. 

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves. 

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, 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. 

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lvies of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. 

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance. 

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

What I Liked:

I knew I would love this book. Nearly five years ago, I got it for Christmas from a friend, who knew I really wanted to read the book (it had published just months before). When I got the book though, it was one of those experiences when you FINALLY get a book that you've been anticipating for ages, and suddenly, you just can't do it. I've tried to read this book for nearly five years, but I just could not do it. I'm counting it as my April 2016 Pili-Pushed novel, as Pili provided the push I needed to experience this brilliance! And what a brilliant book it was.

This review is probably going to be extremely vague and short, because honestly, I don't know how to explain myself when it comes to this book! It needs no explanation - it just needs to be read.

The night circus appears without warning, all of a sudden. It is only open at night, and instead of one massive tent, there are many tents. But there is something far more mysterious and magical at work. Illusionists Marco and Celia are bound to compete in a game about which they were not told much, in which they continually create illusions that enhance the circus. They are the creators, but they are watched by their masters. But the masters do not expect the pair to meet each other, and fall in love in a dizzying, seductive way. But only one can win - and at what cost?

I couldn't even begin to start describing what I liked about this book. The world-building, the setting, the magic, the illusions. The primary characters, the secondary characters, the character development. I am slightly disappointed in myself for waiting so long to read the book!

Celia and Marco are technically our two protagonists, but there are a few others that get their own chapters and play important roles as well. Celia was trained in the illusionist ways in a brutal and punishing way, by her father. Marco was trained in an isolationist, studious way, surrounded by books and knowledge. Two different sets of training, two very skilled illusionists. Neither were supposed to meet, but both are very clever and figure it out (one much faster than the other!).

Marco is the swooniest! In a subtle way though - his charm and his swooniness isn't over the top or full of swagger or arrogance. Marco is quiet and reserved and sweet. Celia is also charming, and very clever. Both of these two are very intelligent, and so romantic in a subtle way. Everything about their romance and relationship is so subtle, not built in words but in actions.

I liked this type of swoony romance, though I must say, I was expecting the romance to be a little more steamy? Something about the synopsis saying that the romance is "seductive" had me thinking that Marco and Celia would have intense, ah, physical times. But everything about their chemistry and their romance is subtle, and built in gestures and creations. I do like the romance, but you'll see below that my ONE complaint is that I expected a steamier romance! 

This book is written in third person, mostly written in either Celia's or Marco's perspective. However, there are chapters written in another character's perspective. The way this story is built, we experience it from when Celia and Marco were very young, and then as the years go by, and then a chapter will be set in the future, and then the story will go back to present day... you'd think this would be confusing but it was not! Every chapter has a date before it starts, so you never lose track of what, where, and who. 

I loved this story. It's such a beautiful story, and I could totally see it becoming a classically known tale. I love that it's a standalone. I love that the ending is satisfying - I was expecting a sad ending, to be honest. This book was delightful!

What I Did Not Like:

Like I mentioned above, I thought the romance would be more physical! Marco and Celia kiss a few times, and there is one subtly, short steamy scene, but given the synopsis (again, "seductive"), I expected lots of touching (even just simple hand brushes or hugs or something). The seduction is like, through the game. Marco creates this, Celia in turn creates this, and they're continually building the circus by creating things for each other. It's so sweet! But not the kind of romance I was expecting. Still a VERY beautiful romance! I enjoyed it.

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book, to anyone. It's an adult fiction novel (you can always tell by looking at the price - it's $26.95!), but readers of pretty much any age (errr, maybe 13 and up) will enjoy this book. It's fantasy and there is a sweeping romance and there are characters that are so lovable and sweet and basically this book was lovely! And the ending was so good.


4 stars. I think I might have given it five stars if the romance had been a little more to what I was expecting - but then again, maybe I've been reading one too many adult romance novels recently. I am so glad that I got this book for Christmas! Four and a half years later I finally read it... better late than never.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. I got this one from the library a couple of months ago, but never got around to it. Oops! I need to borrow it again though because I love the sound of the romance. Even though it's not as physical. I love the subtlety and the swoony feel.
    The world building sounds great too.
    Glad you finally got around to reading it and liked it, Alyssa! :)

    1. I definitely think you should give it a shot, Nick! It was so so so well written. And I loved the romance! I think it was just that I was expecting something else.

      Thank you!

  2. I've owned a copy of this one for years and like you, I just KNOW I'll love it. I don't know what the holdup is but I need to read it soon!! Your review reminded me of that so thanks :D I'm happy you enjoyed this one Alyssa^^ x

    1. So you were in the same boat as me! I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to read it. Thank you, Micheline!

  3. I have a special place in my heart for this book. This author was my first signing when I had just started blogging. It's still one of my favorites!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  4. My best friend loved the book, and though I have on kindle, I've always felt a little scared because it looks really big.
    Now that you made me remember it I might give it a chance soon.
    So glad you enjoyed it!

    1. It's really not that long though! I think it's less than four hundred pages.

      Thank you, Lis! ^_^

  5. I've had this book on my radar for years but, like you, I never got around to it for whatever reason. I'm so glad you loved it! Will definitely look for it at the library (as soon as finals are over). I've been looking for more adult SFF titles, and this looks like a good one. Great review, Alyssa!

    1. It's totally worth the read! Like a finals period treat or reward or something. :D Such good fantasy - I think you'd love it, Kel!

      Thank you. =)

  6. Ahhh I am so so glad and happy your really like and enjoyed this book! I've been dying too read the Night Circus for a long time now. But after reading your review I really want too check out this book asap. Hopefully I can check this book out from the library soon! Thank you for your awesome post my friend!

    1. I hope you do just that, Katiria! You won't regret it. You're very welcome! :D

  7. Great review! This is one I have been needing to read since FOREVER ago. I have heard so many wonderful things about it. Sorry the romance wasn't a bit steamier though. ;)

    1. RIGHT?! It's totally worth the read! And the romance was still wonderful, I loved it. Just not what I was led to believe!

  8. YAY :D Lovely review Alyssa. <3 So glad you finally read this one and that you loved it :D Yesss. I also own it. But.. I tried it once, years ago. And I stopped it, haha. I just didn't like that it was set over many years.. but now thinking that maybe I should give it another try sometime soonish :) You do make it sound aamazing. <3 Hugs. And yay for good romance :D But ugh. Not steamy? That is just meeean, lol :)

    1. Aww! I'm sorry that you stopped reading! Honestly, the fact that it went through so many years of time bothered me as I was reading, initially, but then I got used to it and eventually really liked this setup.

      I have no issues with the romance presented - it was more that I had certain expectations from what I'd heard, and what I got wasn't what I expected. Not a bad thing!


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