[Review] The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon an iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

Full of breath-taking amazements and open only at night, Le Cirque des Rêves seems to cast a spell over all who wander its circular paths. But behind the glittering acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists a fierce competition is underway.

Celia and Marco are two young magicians who have been trained since childhood for a deadly duel. With the lives of everyone at the Circus of Dreams at stake, they must test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love.

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Rather fitting the story…

I don’t feel like I chose this book. Instead, stumbling over this paperback copy was rather a coincidence. I am immensely happy to have picked it up in an almost completely Dutch open bookshelf. Although I had seen it for years, I never actually put it on my tbr but couldn’t resist taking it with me and soon after starting it. And once I started, I was utterly bewitched. The book promises magic, and it absolutely served it from the first page. Especially the author’s manner of telling us this magical story is enchanting. The book opens with a you-perspective and invites us to imagine ourselves in front of the circus. We return to this perspective to experience specific tents of the circus and its development repeatedly.


Two magicians, one contest.

I started reading this book and assumed it to be a romance given its cover. Therefore, I was surprised by the protagonists not having exchanged a word 200 pages in. Nonetheless, I was not bored at all. Getting to know first Celia and then Marco was as entertaining and captivating as no other introduction. Especially their tense relationships to their individual coaches in this competition was intriguing. While we barely witness the mysterious grey man, Celia’s father is all too present even when not actually any longer. There are also many more characters that play into their contest without their own knowing and that set the stage. More than being pawns in their play, characters like Poppet and Widget, Isobel, Friederick, or Ethan get some own agency. The circus thus becomes a circus worth of preservation that I loved to explore in every single chapter.


“Stories have changed, my 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. …” – page 477


Still a Romance

Expecting a romance, I was not too disappointed in the end either. Especially due to the long absence of any real interaction, the tension between these two champions was intense. Once they spoke to each other, I longed for another and another scene. The story stretches over several decades and I devoured every small hint. Although the focus was on these two characters interacting through more than simply words, other figures also evoked my sympathy. The author succeeded in making me feel the impending danger for the whole circus. Unfortunately, I was not that satisfied with the final resolution of the story. I especially regretted that few characters really had a part in it, and it appeared rather anti-climactic to me. I nonetheless love the many enchanting descriptions the author gifted us. Overall, I spent some pleasant and unprecedentedly magical hours with this beautiful story.


In conclusion,

Once started, you won’t be able to escape this book’s lure. Enchanting from the first page, it tells the story of two a bit too complementary magicians set out for a lethal competition. While intriguingly dancing with each other, they also build moving relationships to other characters and experience loss and love—so do the readers.



The author:

Erin Morgenstern is the author of The Night Circus, a bestseller that has enchanted readers around the world and has been translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in Theatre from Smith College, an ever-growing collection of jewellery made from skeleton keys, and a cat on her lap. She lives in Massachusetts. Source

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