Review: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy
Page Length: 387 pages
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: Borrowed via library
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.

No other book I've come across in recent months has managed to so deeply intrigue me from page one. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern made me remember what it feels like to literally crave the next page. Other reviewers may criticize Morgenstern's "overly descriptive" writing or her choice to write in present tense, third person, but if you ask me, this book and this writing were simply magical.

The setting of The Night Circus is (you guessed it!) a circus; it's known as Le Cirque des Rêves or the Circus of Dreams.  The whole feel of the story gave me some serious American Horror Story: Freak Show vibes, but the plots are extremely different.  Le Cirque des Rêves is like no other circus you can possibly fathom.  So if you're immediately turned off by the setting, don't be.  This circus is an ever-changing, mystical place with a seemingly infinite amount of tents and attractions.  From a tent filled with a landscape made entirely from ice known as the "Ice Garden," to an illusionist who performs real magic, the Circus of Dreams stays true to its name.  Intrigued?  You should be.

Morgenstern's use of third person omniscient makes readers feel as if they are experiencing the circus and its many attractions firsthand.  Be prepared for some absolutely beautiful, descriptive writing.  The author never leaves out a detail.

In addition, Morgenstern knows how to capture your attention and keep it there.  This novel felt like one big mystery that I wanted to solve -- desperately.  The author never reveals too much at one time, dropping small hints here and there and stringing you along throughout all 387 pages.  Admittedly, the story is slow-moving, so be forewarned: this book isn't for the impatient.  I tried my best to piece together the story as I read along, but I never even came close to guessing the ending.

Despite my high praise, there were a few problems.

According to its summary, this book is a love story at heart, but I have to disagree.  Although I enjoyed reading about the romance between Celia, an illusionist, and Marco, another magician, I wasn't totally enamored with the two of them.  Their whole "love story" felt a bit sudden, and at times, verging on cheesy.  If you're looking for a great romance novel, you probably won't be satisfied by Celia and Marco's story.

Along similar lines, the summary sells the novel as an action-packed story with a "fierce competition" underway, but this isn't quite accurate.  The rivalry between Celia and Marco isn't actually a battle.  Rather, Celia and Marco are engaged in something perhaps more accurately described as a showy magic competition.

Everything considered, The Night Circus was by far one of the most enjoyable books I've read this summer.  Read Morgenstern's debut for its vivid imagery, beautiful writing, and its captivating fantasy element, and I promise you won't be disappointed either.

Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.


  1. Oh, this is one my all-time favorite books. The writing is so magical, so ethereal. I can't recommend it enough. SO glad you read it!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
    Follow me on Bloglovin'

  2. I have literally just finished this book... to be honest I was slightly disappointed. I loved the idea of the story. I think the plot was amazing but I just didn't like how it would jump timelines. I had to physically write down the dates so I could see where each chapter was leaving off and what year it was... something I don't really want to do when I'm reading a book.

    I do agree with your review though. It was a really good book and Morgernstern's writing is brilliant :)


  3. This is certainly an original premise, and a circus! I am curious about their instructors and how this competition came about, thought the lacklustre love story does sound dissapointing.

  4. Great review! This book looks really good :)

  5. aaahhh, I've been eyeing this book for such a long time. I've been doubting it but it sounds like a really good read. I'm not very good with slow-paced books but if it's worth it, I'm ready for it :) Great review, Julia and thanks for the heads up! :D

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

  6. I'm so happy you loved this book, I feel like everyone does. It's on of my faves, so YAY! I was transported into such a magical and enchanting place. I should pick it up again.
    Vivien @ Pages of Wonderland

  7. I absolutely loved The Night Circus when I read it, that mysterious circus and the vivid imagery was just so good! I wasn't sold on the romance or competition either unfortunately. Great review Julia!

  8. Excellent review! I loved this and I think I will have to do a reread soon!

  9. I adored this story. I listened to it on audiobook, so I surpassed the slowness in a way, and the narrator was fantastic and AHH! I totally agree with you though about the lack of love story or competition. It was all very passive and it wasn't really like Celia and Marco were the ones fighting, but were forced into it.

  10. Great review! I have been curious about this book for so long! I just need to read it already!

  11. Great review! I too was hooked by this book. I agree it wasn't perfect, but there was something so magical and whimsical about it, and while I agree the Celia/Marco romance was probably a bit heavy on cheese I also found their story quite moving. I also found the use of colour (and its absence) so striking! I don't find that happens often enough - and as a result, many of the images have vividly remained with me long after reading that final page.


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