A Black and White Night

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Release Date: January 2011
Publisher: Random House | Anchor
Pages: 387 pages
Source & Format: Christmas gift; Hardcover

Sum It Up (from Goodreads)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, 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. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as teh daring acrobats overhead.

By Its Cover: Perfect Introduction to the Book
I really love the cover of The Night Circus. I love that it's a black and white with touches of red, and you'll realize how perfect the colors are once you read the book. I also love that it's a graphic cover with a bold, striking image. The fact that the hand holds the miniature circus is fitting since the circus is controlled by magic and essentially exists in the hands of the dueling magicians. It's intriguing, just like the story inside.

Amen, Sister Friend: Secondary Characters Stole My Heart
I didn't feel an incredibly strong connection to either of the main characters - Celia and Marco. Although they made for interesting subjects, I was actually more interested in the secondary characters. I enjoyed reading about Celia and Marco, but I don't feel like you really got to know them. They became more a symbol than a two fully realized characters, but I don't really count that as a negative.

My favorite characters? The twins! Their connection, talents and adventures stole the show. Read and you'll see for yourself.

The dueling magicians were pretty annoying, although they made for an interesting read. The one thing I'm still a little hazy about it why exactly they are dueling. It was kind of explained, but I'm still not confident that I completely understood. Honestly? It kind of came across like a huge battle between their two egos... but maybe that was just my impression.

Literary Love: A Little Lacking in the Love Department
I'm not going to write much about this portion of the book, but I will state that this is one area where I felt that the book didn't live up to its blurb. I expected a sweeping, breathtaking and compelling romance. I don't think it really delivered in that regard. It certainly has a romantic and dramatic atmosphere and mood. But that doesn't mean the romance is actually swoonworthy. It created the feeling of swoon rather than really giving you a full, real and true love story. For once, it didn't bother me because there was so many other things to love about this book! So don't take this as a negative. It really wasn't for me. I loved it at the time, but thinking about it after I couldn't really pinpoint why they loved each other and how they fell in love, which is the only reason it didn't quite live up to the "love story" portion.

Word Nerd: Magical & Enchanting
One of the biggest strengths of this book is the writing. Is the plot interesting? Very much so! But it's the writing that takes what could have simply been an interesting book and makes it come alive. I am so glad that the words in a book about a magic circus are gorgeous, enchanting and their own form of magic. I was so caught up in the story itself that I don't think I took enough time to really savor the writing. This book would make the perfect re-read - I could tell that another read would show me even more to love about this delightful story.

The plot is dreamy and sort of sweeps you along. I have a feeling that there may have been a few loose ends, a few characters conveniently forgotten and such, but I didn't leave the book feeling like anything was missing. Fittingly, it's almost like you fall into a dream while reading this book. I didn't really feel critical of anything about it, and actually gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I'd even go so far as to say it's been one of my favorite reads so far this year. But I have a feeling it had a weakness or two that I completely overlooked in my utter love for the language and imagery.

Extra, Extra: The Circus!
Who doesn't love the circus? I mean, seriously! Aside from the fact that clowns are usually involved and those can sometimes be creepy, I can't think of any reason not to celebrate the circus coming to town. The best part about this circus is its setup. Unlike a traditional circus that takes place underneath the single "Big Top," this circus involves numerous small tents and attractions as you are meandering through it. Needless to say, I'm dying to visit this circus! My favorite tent was probably the ice garden - it seemed like an icy wonderland. 

So Quotable
"You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."

Bottom Line: I Was Enchanted to Meet You
This is a book that's really about the writing. It's a sweeping story that builds slowly but leaves you entranced. And while I could see why it wouldn't be right for every reader, it definitely did the trick with me. I was sucked in to the world Morgenstern created, and I didn't want to come back to reality. This is a lovely gem, and I'm so very glad that I picked it up. This is a book I'd highly recommend - with the disclaimer that it doesn't necessarily deliver on all that the jacket promises so enter with no expectations and be enchanted.

11 comments:

  1. I (almost) completely agree! I read this several months ago so I'm a little hazy on the details now, but my main thoughts (much like yours) were that the writing was great, the romance not so great, and some aspects a bit under-explained (like why Celia and Marco are dueling). Overall I really enjoyed it, but those flaws kept me from giving it a perfect Goodreads rating.

    And my favorite tent was the ice garden too. So magical!

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    1. I'm glad you agree! And I can obviously see why those flaws kept you from giving it a great rating. For some reason, I just loved this book. I adored everything about it & wouldn't have seen a flaw in it if I'd written the review right after I finished reading. But, since I waited a week or so before writing the review, I was able to more easily identify some of the problems. I still gave it a good rating, and would recommend it, because I had such a good experience reading it.

      Don't you wish the ice garden was real?!

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  2. I agree with most of what you said. Like you I didn't completely connect with the main characters -- it wasn't a character driven novel for me at all. So it is interesting that I loved this book so much -- almost all of my other favorite books are character driven. But the writing is so beautiful and captivating, I was completely swept up. The only thing I disagree on is that despite the fact that I didn't feel extremely close to the characters, for some reason I was completely moved by the love story. I'm not sure exactly why I had all the reactions I did to this weird and awesome book, but it is amazing.

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    1. I am SO with you on this! I usually need to feel connected to the characters, but I didn't feel like I needed to at all in this book. I got so swept away in the gorgeous writing, and I'm so glad you agree that this was the book's strength. I can see how the love story could move you. I think I was actually pretty moved by the love story while reading it, but when I sat down to write the review over a week later, that was an aspect that I realized probably wasn't as developed as it could have been. Even though the book had a few weaknesses, I love it just as much as you do! It's definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year :)

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  3. This is such a wonderful review, and sums up almost completely how I felt about this book! The plot, world building, and writing were absolutely beautiful and magical, this was certainly a book more about the setting than the characters, and I LOVE setting as character. I agree that the romance wasn't as epic as I expected going in, but it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the story, I just had to alter how i was thinking about it. My favorite were definitely the twins!

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    1. That's it exactly! The love story was only disappointing when measured against my expectations. When I altered how I was thinking about it (perfect way to describe that, Heidi!), I was able to fall in love with the story. I usually read more character-driven stories, so it was such a great experience to read one where the setting takes center stage. YAY for the twin love! Weren't they great?!

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  4. I'm listening to this on audio right now so I had to skim your lovely review. But I am SO with you on enchanting. In fact, that is exactly the word I wrote down in my notes of the book so far.

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    1. Isn't that just the perfect word for this book?! I bet the audio is lovely. Isn't Jim Dale the narrator? I love his voice & would love to listen to this on audio and experience the magic all over again. I'm excited to see what you think of this book once you finish!

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    2. It is Jim Dale. And this is my first one of his. He's marvelous. A grand story teller. :)

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    3. BTW, I love how you titled this review. Brilliant really! ;)

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    4. I'm glad you like Jim Dale's narration! He reads the Harry Potter audiobooks, and I think they're lovely. He's definitely got a storyteller's voice.

      And I'm glad you like the title :) Thanks!

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