Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus is another book with more than one piece of art for its cover.  Here's the art from the one I read:
I think the UK one, however, is more delicious and evocative of the novel:
And delicious it was!  The Night Circus is the debut novel for author Erin Morgenstern.  It came up in my Amazon recommendations a couple of months ago and I added myself to the wait list for it at my library.  It showed up for me last week and I dove in.

I want to reveal very little detail about the plot in this review because I don't want to take away from your own reading experience.  In the beginning, I genuinely had no idea where the plot was going and I liked it that way.  The book is written very similar in style to the book The Time Traveler's Wife.  Each chapter is headed with a location and a date with the year.  The chapters are not in chronological order.   At first this threw me off and I did a lot of page shuffling (I imagine this might be kind of annoying for those with e-readers), but I finally settled into it.  The story is set mostly in the late 1800s and has magic at its core---not illusions like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but real ancient magic.  There are two magicians introduced at the beginning who pit their students, Celia and Marco, against each other in a magical battle that cannot end until the other is defeated.  The venue chosen is a circus created specifically for the competition by an acquaintance of one of the magicians.  Part of the way Celia and Marco compete is by using their skills to add attractions to the circus, like a garden made entirely out of ice, a maze made of clouds, and a tree that grants wishes.  This is what makes the book so special --- the circus becomes a character itself.  In the midst of their duel, Celia and Marco realize they are in this together.  How will the competition end?  Who will win?  Can the circus survive the battle? 

Morgenstern seriously outdoes herself with the descriptions of the people and acts within the circus.  I could smell the circus (she often references the scent of caramel and smoke), I could taste the circus (the characters are constantly purchasing delectable tidbits to munch on as the wander from tent to tent), and I could see the circus in my mind as clearly as any room in my house.  I looked at some of the reviews on Amazon and some reviewers found all the descriptions to be tedious.  I, on the other hand, loved it! While this book could have been ordinary and forgettable, the author's knack for detail really pulls the reader into the story effortlessly.  One minor issue is that Celia and Marco could have used a wee bit more character development.  Especially early on in the book, it's very hard to tell what their motivation is for engaging in the competition when they weren't the ones who started it or agreed to it.  I understood why this was the case after reading this quote from Erin Morgenstern:

"The circus started as a tangent. I would come up with a vague idea and a handful of characters. The last week of October, in ’05, I had a concept that I liked and I got really bored with it, so I sent all the characters to the circus, and the circus was much more interesting. The next year, I wrote all about the circus. That’s where the book came from. It didn’t have a plot at that point. It started as vignettes."

It all makes sense now.  No wonder the circus is stronger than the main characters!  The supporting characters, however, are quite wonderful.  I felt like I was opening a little present with each person I got to meet in this book.  I was particularly taken with...geez...just about everyone.  Poppet and Widget, the Burgess sisters, Chandresh, Herr Thiessen, Tsukiko---she made all the characters special in some way.

Okay, now that I'm done gushing, I discovered that I'm not the only one who is taken with this book.  In the book, the circus has groupies called reveurs (dreamers) that follow the circus around from location to location.  They identify each other by wearing all black with a splash of red in the way of an accessory like a scarf or a flower.  Get this---there are literally people dressing up like reveurs and attending the book signings for The Night Circus!  Check out some of these photos:

The movie rights to the book have been acquired by Summit Entertainment, the same production company responsible for the Twilight movies.  Do I foresee lines of people clad in black with red scarves lined up for midnight viewings a la Harry Potter?  I believe I do.
And since it is the new trend in book promotion, here is the trailer for The Night Circus:

I hope you pick it up and enjoy this one.  I have a feeling I'll be reading it for a second time sometime soon.


Anonymous said...

Great review! I was wondering about this book and after reading your post about it, I'm adding it to my To Read list. It sounds like an adventure in prose. :)

I liked the fan pics too. If that many people are are getting decked out in fancy red and black duds for the book signing, there has to be a special element in the books. :)

Patricia said...

I read this last year and I absolutely loved it. It was a library book ,but I enjoyed it so much i also bought it and added it to my personal library. I also loved the description. I always felt that I was there ... in the maze of clouds or the ice garden.

If you liked this you might also like "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." Beyond the fact that they are both about Magic (note the capital M), I thought they both had the same "je ne sais quoi" or feel about them.

Harvest Moon by Hand said...

Sounds like a great book! I'll have to add it to my list of books that I want to read.

Am reading "Saving Gracie" right now about a dog that was saved from a puppy mill and her recovery and impact on her new family. Am trying to read one animal-focused book each month this year.