The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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“Then the iron gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.”

There are two rival illusionists with opposing world views. They each select a champion and magically bind them to compete in a challenge when they are older. One chooses his own daughter, Celia, who displays a powerful natural talent when she is dropped on his doorstep at a young age. One chooses an orphan, Marco, that he takes in and trains. Celia and Marco grow up separately and eventually meet as The Night Circus is forming, which will be the stage upon which they compete, though it takes them a while to realize that.  As the circus grows in popularity and ever impressive spectacles, Celia and Marco stumble forward with the challenge without knowing the rules against which they’re playing or even how to win.

This would be a great read for late summer or early fall. It is so beautifully written and atmospheric – the black and white color scheme, the scents of popcorn, caramel apples, and cider, the mystery of the challenge and the spectacular feats of magic itself. It’s enchanting and whimsical with something wistful lying underneath. The circus travels around the world, suddenly appearing without a trace, and is only open between dusk and dawn. It draws people in, it attracts a group of passionate followers, and the challenge between Celia and Marco can and will affect everyone that is a part of it.

The Night Circus feels like a movie – one that has dazzling special effects and is enjoyable to watch, and you talk about how great it was with your friends. But it’s probably not one that has a lot of re-watch value. I really liked the book while I was reading it – I can see why it’s so popular. But even though there are a lot of really interesting characters, there aren’t any that I developed a surging affection for. I really liked Celia, but more for how incredibly powerful she was more than a sense of her personality. I really do hope that it gets made into a movie – the acts of magic and illusion practically beg to be put on the big screen, and if it’s done well it could be one of those movies that ends up being even better than the book.

If you like magical realism and whirlwind mystery love stories, The Night Circus won’t disappoint. Have a glass of wine while you read, and enjoy sinking into it.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

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16 comments

  1. Great review, Sarah!! I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. I have had this book forever, and everyone says how good it is. It sounds fun, I’m definitely going to try it.

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  2. I really didn’t know what to expect from this book but I ended up loving it. I’m with you that I didn’t find myself super attached to any of the characters but I was so swept up in the book’s atmosphere that I almost didn’t even care. It’s one that I keep meaning to re-read but you know how that goes…

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  3. This is one of those where I’d be perfectly happy with a very loose adaptation. Because, really, I’ve read this book twice, and I can tell you very little about the specifics of the plot or the characters. What sticks with you (or at least with me) the most is the atmosphere. So as long as a movie got the feel of it right, I wouldn’t care how much they changed the details.

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  4. I felt like this book was more atmosphere than story. Which is FINE cos the atmosphere is pretty great. Would love if they made it into a movie. I don’t even care what story they go with, just keep the feel

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    1. Yep, I agree with Alley! It’s all atmosphere and not very much else, but when the atmosphere is so incredible, it hardly matters. Did either of y’all see Sleep No More? Erin Morgenstern was involved with the company that originated that show, and I think she captures so much of its magic in The Night Circus.

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      1. I have wanted to see Sleep No More SO MANY TIMES (and briefly thought about doing it for my bachelorette but didn’t think others would be quite so into it) but have yet to go. I didn’t realize Morgenstern was involved with it, though I guess it makes sense from what I’ve heard.

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      2. It’s a show but interactive. And everyone is wearing masks and instead of sitting and watching a performance, you wander around this hotel and everyone is wearing masks and no one speaks. I have a friend who’s seen it a few times and is a fan. So it’s weird. A lot of atmosphere (Jenny, not sure if I got that right since that’s really what I’ve heard from people about it)

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