Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published: 2011
Genre: Adult Fantasy – Historical Fiction

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-Star

This book is not about a circus really, this book is about the relationship between Erin Morgenstern and language and how she wields it the way our main heroine, Celia weaves magic. I feel I need to state that before I go into my rant because the language and its use of it is the only saving grace in this novel, at least for me.

This is a story comprised of a group of extremely patient I dare I say docile characters (flat as a board). As I slowly have progressed through reading I think this book made me realize that I am simply not fond of magical realism. The reason I think I am unable to connect with magical realism is because the magical realism itself becomes a character, it becomes the defining structure of the novel. When writing a magical realism book getting the magical realism right is the most important thing and I feel that the characters themselves essentially become a side note and the connection that the reader has with the characters themselves becomes minor compared to the connection readers will have with the enchanting words used in order to craft a beautiful novel.

Being that I am a character-driven reader I find it increasingly hard to connect to magical realism books where the characters are simply a puppet in the show that is the magical verbiage. This is the second magical realism novel I read this year and once again I find myself utterly disconnected with the characters and having no emotional attachment to them makes me have no emotional attachment to the novel itself regardless of the bountiful picture that is presented to us by this very talented writer.

By the end I truly did not care if they died, were stuck in a tree for all of eternity or they lived happily ever after. This is a love story but it is a love story that is told to us versus a story that is shown to us. Celia and Marco have but a handful of scenes together and I simply did not find myself invested in them nor did I find their love convincing, simply ‘magical’ and this magic is suspended within these pages and does not fill me as a reader or a person henceforth the moment the book is finished I have forgotten about them, all I can remember is that the book is ‘magical’.

Many people love this book, this is many people’s favorite book but much like magical realism films, magical realism book are not for me. They do not enchant me and I find myself yearning for meaty complex characters that yell and shout instead of idly standing about letting their ‘fate’ within this magical world dictate their actions. I find that these are not real characters at all, they are one-dimensional and unrealistic and I yearned for true realism in the mist of all the magic.

Overall – if you love reading magical realism, you will find this book enchanting. If like me you want something darker, tangible and complex I would tell you to skip it. Gave it 3 stars but should have given it 2 because the hilarious description of “a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters -” is ludicrous. This book has zero sense of urgency, it dallies about waddling in a shallow pool on a lazy summer day.

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