The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

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 Rêves, 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 the daring acrobats overhead.







I was a little nervous at first to start reading this book, simply because I had heard it hyped up SO much. Seriously. A lot. In fact, I have yet to hear a bad review of it anywhere. It may not be a favorite for everyone, but everyone I've heard has at least listed on their "liked" list. Ohhh thank goodness it lived up to the hype for me! 


The writing here just left me awe-struck. The world Morgenstern has envisioned! Can I just join this circus now? Please?! The plot is written around magicians / illusionists, but I particularly loved how Morgenstern's writing itself had a magic to it. A magic that would be ruined by trying to read ahead (some readers have that habit so I'm just throwing that out there as a heads up -- you don't want to glance ahead with this one!) Case in point, the Pool Of Tears tent. First reading the description, I thought WHY would anyone create an exhibit like that?!


The stillness of the tent becomes a quiet melancholy. Memories begin to creep forward from the hidden corners of your mind. Passing disappointments. Lost chances and lost causes. Heartbreaks and pain and desolate, horrible loneliness. Sorrows you thought long forgotten mingle with still-fresh wounds.


But when you read the last lines after that excerpt above, you think OHH, how cool is that! And it actually becomes a really beautiful scene in the story. 


The storyline starts in 1873 and by the end of the novel, we're up to modern day. It doesn't exactly run perfectly chronologically, instead jumping around back and forth between years -- moreso after about the halfway point of the novel -- which was a little confusing at times, but not to a point where I couldn't keep up. I just had to backtrack a page & re-read portions every so often to make it clear in my mind. The pace of the story seems to have a slow build throughout most of the novel, but not in a way that makes it slow or dull. It's more like there's a tension to the slow pace that seems to let you know, as the reader, to expect quite a powerful ending. And I wasn't disappointed! {But oh, the clockmaker! I did not see that coming for him!}


As much as I loved this book, if I'm being completely honestly i I have to say I felt like the romantic relationship between Celia & Marco was a little under-developed. I loved the friendship that builds between them and the sparks that are definitely there, but as far as being that leaves-you-breathless forever love.. it seemed rushed to me, like it was just starting to get to a deep place when they had to make these life-altering decisions between each other. My favorite characters were actually the twins, Widget & Poppet (aka Winston & Penelope), and their friendship with Bailey, a farm boy obsessed with the circus.


He reads histories and mythologies and fairy tales, wondering why it seems that only girls are ever swept away from their mundane lives on farms by knights or princes or wolves. It strikes him as unfair to not have the same fanciful opportunity himself. And he is not in the position to do any rescuing of his own. During the hours spent watching the sheep as they wander aimlessly around their fields, he even wishes that someone would come and take him away, but wishes on sheep appear to work no better than wishes on stars. He tells himself that it is not a bad life. That there is nothing wrong with being a farmer. But still the discontentment remains. Even the ground beneath his feet feels unsatisfying to his boots. So he continues to escape to his tree.



I found the romantic vibe between Poppet & Bailey more believable than that of Celia & Marco, but I liked that the wrench named Isobel (the circus fortune teller) was put between C&M, keeping things edgy and interesting. {Speaking of Celia, poor girl! That father that only allowed her to eat the minimum amount of food because he believed the "waif look" was more ethereal and convincing for circus performing! Then she gets locked up in this sick competition between her father & his associate}.


My personal favorite exhibits in Le Cirque de Reves (Circus of Dreams) were the Ice Garden (I want one!), Star Gazer, and the Cloud Maze. Description of the Ice Garden:


There are no stripes visible on the walls, everything is sparkling and white. She cannot tell how far it stretches, the size of the tent obscured by cascading willows and twisting vines. The air itself is magical. Crisp and sweet in her lungs as she breathes, sending a shiver down to her toes that is caused by more than the forewarned drop in temperature. There are no patrons in the tent as she explores, circling alone around trellises covered in pale roses and a soft, bubbling elaborately carved fountain.


Though I was thinking, since a large part of this takes place in the late 1800s, early 1900s... those ladders in the Cloud Maze probably would have been a big ol' pain to try to manuever in traditional early 1900s ladies outfits!


The Night Circus proves to be a fantastic piece of magical escapism that I will be able to escape into any time I fall into a reading rut. I just need one of those silver "unlimited admittance" passes to the Circus of Dreams!