Don’t Believe the Hype ~ The Night Circus (Apr. 2014)


I was disappointed in this book. I really wanted to enjoy it. I was intrigued by the blurb on the back and was ready to be blown away.


I wasn’t.

There is very little in the way of pay-off with this book. There’s a lack of tension in the plot; nothing is really at stake for any of the characters; the reader isn’t given sufficient reason to care about the outcome of this “game” between the magicians; and the ending feels tacked on and implausible.

The circus itself is the only well-rounded character in the book, which is saying something considering how many characters are in the story. None of Morgenstern’s characters achieve any sort of depth; we don’t end up caring about Celia or Marco or any of the circus performers.

I think the reason for this is down to the time shifts. The story is told in very short, episodic chapters with little chronological continuity, i.e. the magicians meet in one chapter, we’re told that sparks fly (they don’t) and then the next time we see those characters, it’s two or three years later…. Well, what happened in the interim? where are all those little moments that would serve to convince us that they’re in love? We never get any of those moments. It’s simply five or six years later, and these two magicians are in love with each other even though they should be competing via the circus. Also, Marco spends those years in a relationship with another woman…. even though he’s supposedly head over heels about Celia…..

At times we almost form a connection with a character, Theissen or the architect or Poppet and Widge, but the moment is snatched away because the chapters are so short and/or we don’t see the character again until it’s been years later.

I don’t understand why the writer felt the need to do that. It didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose for the story. More urgency and tension could have been infused in the plot if the entire story only covered two or three years of time. I don’t see why it needed to go on for more than a decade.

Also, the story does not pan out the way the blurb on the back would have you believe. The magicians don’t ‘duel’ so much as they compose love letters for one another via tents in the circus. The ‘love’ they share is superficial and barely believable. The ‘game’ is never explained nor is it clear why they have to opt for the ending they choose.

The prose is quite beautiful at times. Morgenstern clearly has a way with words, and she does a wonderful job bringing the circus to life in a way that the reader can ‘see.’ There is stunning imagination in the various acts and tents the circus is comprised of – very original and breathtaking. But I wanted the story to be as well-rounded and beautifully executed as the circus was.

All in all, pretty disappointed in this, especially considering how many people raved about it.