The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Review

Posted October 17, 2011 by Asheley in review / 9 Comments

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern ReviewThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Doubleday on September 13, 2011
Pages: 400
Source: Library
Buy from Amazon|Buy from Barnes & Noble|Buy from Book Depository

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...

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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.


It isn’t often that books garner the amount of pre-publication buzz that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern did. I began to hear and read about this book months and months ago and the buzz turned into full-on hype over a rather short time. For me, the excitement began over the stunning cover. I knew I wanted to read the book based on the cover alone and for the folks that know anything about me at all, you know this isn’t at all uncommon. Then I read the summary…
The story centers around illusionists Celia and Marco, and their challenge, but the Circus is such an entity that it ends up being a setting, a character, and a story itself. The author tells her story using several different narrators, which completely enriches our perspective on everything. She also moves through time, choosing to tell her story in the past, the present, and the future. It may sound confusing by my description, but it actually works very well. Each chapter is clearly marked with the setting in terms of time and place, so the reader always has a sense of where, when, and who — and the chapters are fairly short in length so that we have an equal representation of all of the varying points-of-view. I have always loved a well-constructed story written in alternating POV, and Morgenstern raises the bar with The Night Circus. In my opinion, the execution was flawless and the complex structure added to the mystique and charisma of this circus that opens at nightfall and closes at dawn. 
From the first word on the first page until the last word at the end, this book was nothing but absolute magic for me. It was captivating. It was bold, it was dark, and it was lovely. I knew that it would be the story of a circus and that there would be some magic involved, but I did not know to what degree the magic, the enchantment, and the somewhat-paranormal aspect would be. I was in almost as much wonder at reading this tale as the crowds probably were in witnessing Celia’s shows of illusion at the circus. I know, without a doubt, that I read this book with a smile because I was told that I was reading with a smile.
I cannot believe how easy it was for me to feel like I was at the circus myself. With the descriptive narrative used by the author, I felt like I could hear the flaps of the tents blowing in the wind, I could smell the cotton candy and caramel in the air, I could taste the hot chocolate that was sold at the concession stands. The language used by the author was never overly heavy or descriptive, but it was certainly thorough. Nothing was left out, from the description of every tent at the circus down to the details of the gowns Celia wore. 
There is a romance that buds between Celia and Marco — it becomes stronger and stronger until they are so deeply in love they are almost sick with it. This is never overpowering in the plot. The romance is not bigger than the circus nor the challenge, but it is certainly an integral part of the story. Further, what is incredibly interesting and wonderful and different about the romance in this story is that the author wrote these two deeply in love after barely even having any physical contact at all. The magic is so intense when these two touch — even just their hands touching — that the lights flicker and the room shakes. 
As I read, I became so attached to these characters, I was almost afraid to keep reading because I had no idea what was going to happen. Erin Morgenstern was able to keep the mystery about this story the entire way through, and it kept me turning page after page with my heart literally pounding in my chest. By the time I neared the peak of the story — the climax — I was almost out of breath so I put the book down for a minute because I thought I just needed a break before I finished. After a couple of seconds with it sitting on the table, I had to pick it right back up and keep going. Friends, THIS is the sign of a masterpiece, a work of genius. 
I know that there will be some people that will not particularly care for this book. I won’t understand it, but that’s okay. This is by far one of the best books I’ve read this year, and will likely be one of my all-time favorites. I love all of the characters and the setting. I love the dark, beautiful language of the author. I love the alternating points-of-view and time. I love the allure and magic of the circus. I’m so highly impressed by Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I’m hoping that you will pick it up and give it a chance. 
If you love magic, chances are you’ll love this story. If you love your romance heavy and breathless, but with barely any touching at all — good gracious, this story is for YOU. If you love science-fiction and fantasy, you’ll more-than-likely love The Night Circus. These thoughts came nowhere close to doing this book any type of justice at all. I so desperately want to re-read this book, it is like a pain in my chest. THAT’s how much I loved it. So if you’re one of the ones who trust my bookish opinions, go get it. Just do it. 
Erin Morgenstern, THANK YOU for making my bookish year. I waited SO LONG for this book, and it absolutely delivered and more. It is beautiful and I love it so, so much. 

About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


9 responses to “The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Review

  1. Great review! I actually have this book on my to-read pile, and am contemplating returning it to the library unread (for now). I just have so many other books to read, and I think this one, while it does seem awesome, will take me a long time to get through–and I don't have the time to dedicate to it right now. So I'll send it on its way–the people on hold for it behind me will be happy!!

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