Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Doesn't that send a thrill up your spine? I read this book about a year ago and loved the idea of it. Unfortunately, in retrospect, I think I liked the idea better than the actual book. It is a very magical idea, this whole night circus concept. A mysterious, stunning circus in black and white and red appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night and features the most unique and mind-blowing performances anyone has ever heard of. Excellent! It could stay for a day or a month or a year, who knows!

The main story here is not the circus itself really, but a fierce battle going on behind the scenes between two warring magicians who have each selected a "student" as their pawn in their sick game. The Night Circus is the venue. It's very complicated, and I never quite understood it really. Basically a boy and a girl find out from a young age that they have been chosen by the magicians to play this game. They never really seem to understand what the terms of the game are, who their Opponent is, when the game will begin, or how it can be won. Naturally, as soon as the opponents do meet each other, they fall madly in love, which is deeply tragic given the implication that one must kill the other.

The whole opponent/game thing was shrouded in so many layers of mystery and complication and vague, esoteric rules that I just never really felt too engaged with it. It took me a long time to finish this book actually and I think that's because I never really had a grasp as to what on earth was going on or what I wanted to happen.

I think the underlying problem in this book is that the author spends far more time discussing how enthralled everyone was with the Night Circus than demonstrating in a concrete way what it was about the Night Circus that was actually so enthralling. And she does the same thing with the Opponents. She hammers home the point that this is an epic saga of star-crossed lovers, but as a reader, I had a hard time feeling it...I was just really confused a lot of the time. I kind of felt like this was published too soon, like we have here an early draft not fully developed.

I wanted to love this book, but something about it just didn't quite do it for me....I just never felt all that connected to the characters or the story. Still, it was a super creative idea, so it gets points for that: 3.5 stars.

Also, the jacket art is amazing. Well done whoever designed this jacket!!

11 comments:

  1. I don't know if this would be the type of book I would like to read, but I did want to stop by and tell you I enjoyed reading your review <3

    Sarah @ The Ultimate Bookworms.

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    1. thanks! yeah, this is probably not for everyone. i thought it would be right up my alley and it was in some ways but ultimately it fell short. oh well! thanks for stopping by and commenting :-)

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  2. What would be better, a super creative idea crappily developed or a crappy idea super creatively developed?

    -- James Chiasmus

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    1. I think a creative development superbly crapped on would be the ideal situation here. Thanks very much for stopping by, James Chiasmus! Looking forward to more of your ever-illuminating commentary.

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  3. I finally just recently bought this book. It's still sitting patiently on my shelf, but I really NEED to read it soon! I appreciate the honest review... now I can lower my expectations some and just enjoy the book as it is. :) Great review!

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    1. Thanks, yeah, I still would definitely recommend it. It's so different than any other YA book I've ever read, so that alone is a major plus. I'll be interested to hear what you think. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I think of this book as a very sophisticated and heavy read, so while I always wanted to read it (and even have a signed copy on my shelf), I was always kind of scared to pick it up. I've heard both raves and complaints, and I'm just afraid to find out how I'll feel about it myself. Kind of worried that it won't live up to my *very* high expectations. It's great that you enjoyed it enough to give it a 3,5 starts :) Thank you for a thorough and honest review!! :)

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