Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

nightcircus-styled-01Wow. When I finished this book that was all I could think. But I’m sure you’re going to want more in a review, so here it goes:

The Night Circus is the story of a mysterious circus that is only open at night and comes and goes from a location without warning. But the circus is only a backdrop for a much more serious event: a magical competition between Celia and Marco, who were drafted into this fight as children without their consent because of their abilities to control time and space. Over time, it becomes clear that their competition involves not only the two of them and their masters, but the whole circus and the fate of everyone in it.

This is Erin Morgenstern’s first novel, which is so hard to believe because she writes with the skill of someone who’s been honing her craft for 30 years. It’s a lush, romantic, suspenseful tale worthy of the hype it has received. Morgenstern truly makes magic real through her prose. The descriptions are so vivid, so evocative in their creativity that you feel like you’re in a dream in the whole time – one you can’t wait to get back to. From the searing pain of a binding spell to the lofty heights of a circus tent meant to emulate walking the clouds, you’ll feel like you’ve lived it all by the end of the book. The plot is well paced and will leave you breathless at certain points, while wishing you could freeze the story on a particularly beautiful scene at others. The characters are strong and unique, about as far from stock as you get. Thanks to the author’s masterful storytelling, you form a relationship with them as you read that makes them all feel like family, even the ones you despise.

If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that the ending fell a little flat for me. The book is so grandiose that I was expecting a bang at the end, when it really just quietly came to a conclusion. What happens makes sense, but it’s a little bit disappointing that there wasn’t one more dramatic revelation. It’s like being on a roller coaster and going up that last hill, but instead of the final sharp descent, you just travel on an even track until the ride stops. But that’s not enough for me to take anything away from my 5-star rating of the book.

I listened to this as an audio book and I have to say it was a little difficult to follow the jumps in time since I couldn’t just flip back a few pages to see the order of things. But the narrator, Jim Dale, once again proves why he’s the best in the business. I highly recommend this format.

In short, this is an incredible book that I will read over and over again, if only to escape from reality and hopefully learn to be a stronger writer from Morgenstern’s enviable talent. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

PS – This is the only book written in present tense I’ve ever read where I didn’t notice it (and I hate present tense books). I actually felt it was the only way the story could have been told. Bravo to the author for showing this skeptic how this manner of writing can be done well.

Have you read The Night Circus? If so, what did you think of it? If not, is it something you plan to read?