Reviews: The Night Circus

Everything but the Love Story (And the Second-Person POV) Works

I'll start off with my biggest problem with the book: the main love story isn't a good one. The two leads aren't as interesting as they should be, and their relationship suffers from this blandness. Making it a Love Triangle was a worse decision (though I am admittedly biased against Love Triangles in general) by making Marco look like a jackass, like a reviewer before me have pointed out.

Another issue I had (though much more minor) is the use of second-person POV for some of the chapters. I understand the idea of taking time to absorb the atmosphere of the place, but it would have been better not to devote entire chapters to it (as it does comes across as self-congratulating), and second-person POV is clunky even with great authors. A nameless character would have served the purpose much better, if you must have these chapters.

That being said, I think everything else makes up for the two problems. The other characters, while not being particularly complex, were likeable (with the obvious exception of Hector) and interesting enough to keep me invested in them. While the second-person POV was excessive, I liked the dark romanticism of the circus itself, and thought the part with the rÍveurs was a nice touch. The direction the story took, particularly with the Challenge, wasn't what I expected, and I enjoyed it even with the lack of interesting main characters.

I enjoyed reading this, and I recommend it, though I wouldn't blame anyone for being irritated with its faults.

P.S.: Personally, with all the gorgeous imagery this book presents, I think a film or mini-series would have been a better choice of medium for this story. But that's a personal opinion, and the book brings across the beauty of the circus wonderfully.

Smoke and Mirrors

How apropos. For a book aimed squarely at the young-adult genre's audience, Morgenstern shows a fair bit of linguistic skill. There's a difference between that and good writing ability, though.

First off, the praise. As I mentioned, the writer has a deft touch of the keyboard and can turn a decent phrase. Descriptions are VIVID, colorful, and expansive. I feel like I have a very good grasp on the scenery and the local flavor. The circus itself has a real sense of life and artistry about it.

Sadly, though, that's about where the praise ends for me. This book is, as some say here in Texas, "All hat and no cattle." It walks like a romance, but it doesn't do anything one would associate with one. For instance, the main characters are as flat and lifeless as can be, and they have only the barest and most tenuous connection to the plot itself. Author Fiat is in full effect, as we're left to take on faith that plot events are happening, that characters have the reactions we're told they do, and that we should care one way or the other.

The story as a whole is nonsensical, cruel, and impenetrable. The magic system is a grab-bag of New Rules and New Powers As The Plot Demands, where everything happens off screen, and even when magic is brought out in front of the reader, it simply "is", and the audience in the book is too legendarily thick to recognize that breathing carousel horses and ravens that turn into jackets aren't just slight-of-hand.

If I had to sum this book up in one single word, it would be "Twee", but not just that. Imagine the word set sixty-feet high, in letters carved from ancient granite, except that they're completely hollow inside. The entire book is littered with questionable storytelling choices. The setting constantly flip-flops from time period to time period, forward and back without regard for logical progression. Entire chapters are told in second-person for absolutely no reason whatsoever (which is a choice that should be reserved solely for fanfiction-quality writing), and while not as egregious a sin as second-person, writing in present tense is awfully tetchy for the best of writers.

Long story short, it's a delightful dress. It's flowing, regal, and spectacularly adorned. It's only when you get close that you realize that it's on a dressmaker's dummy and there's not a real person inside.

Great Idea for Wedding? Yeah! Good Novel? Nooooooo!

How can I put this in the nicest way possible? The Night Circus was a book about porn and lies. Now bear with me here; I'm going somewhere with this. It really was just porn disguised as a novel, with a heaping helping of lies on the back cover. It was Purple Prose wrapped in all flavors of porn: Description Porn, Costume Porn, Food Porn, and Scenery Porn. So much of it. It was 80% porn, 10% lies, and 10% Relationship Sue. Porn porn porn.

Erin Morgenstern spends the majority of the book forgetting about the rule Show, Don't Tell. She tells the reader repeatedly that the two main characters are in love, a romance for the ages. That's the first lie. The second lie is that this book is about a duel of the ages. The "duel" is a battle of interior design. But not like Trading Spaces, which is actually interesting. These two illusionists/wizards are not actually doing any dueling. They are walking through each others spaces and judging the design merits of them, and then trying to top that.

Let's address this scandalous abundance of porn. The Scenery Porn is the "duel" we're subjected to. There's pages worth how beautiful spaces are decorated in red and black and white, and OH! how whimsical the rooms filled with clouds and creatures and games are! It's all very nice, but there is hardly any story to speak of between these descriptions. The Food Porn will have you salivating, but starved for substance (white chocolate balls filled with red ganache. I mean, wow!)

So what happened? Well, the book is a series of descriptions. It jumps between events with little detail. It does not allow us to see the developments of characters, nor actually experience the blossoming love between Mary Sue and male Mary Sue Celia and Marco. We are expected to love these flat as cardboard characters despite the fact that they are truly wizards who hardly do any magic and one of them is a cheating bastard and a Jerkass.

Its impossible to become invested in the characters in this book, and they are not memorable whatsoever. I can think of no interesting qualities about either character at all. The only intriguing characters were Widget and Poppet, and they hardly got any time to shine. To top it off, the reader is rewarded to a steaming pile of Deus ex Machina at the end.

If you want substance, SKIP THIS!!!!!!!