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212 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Captivating
Sometimes a book comes along that will captivate you from the very first page and doesn't let go until you've finished reading it, for me The Night Circus was one of those books. In fact, when I reached the end I was very tempted to turn back to the first page and start reading it again. This has to be the most impressive debut I've read in a long time and I can't wait...
Published on 5 Oct. 2011 by Sarah (Feeling Fictional)

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If candy floss were a book this would be it- sweet and looks promising but with very little substance
I had been looking forward to reading this for aaages, so whether this factored in how disappointing I found it, I don’t know.

I had to nibble away at this book, chapter by chapter.

Every time I got into a scene I got whisked away somewhere else, I was never allowed to settle, after a while this got wearying, then boring.

The premise...
Published 5 months ago by Miss Joanna R. Barker


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212 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Captivating, 5 Oct. 2011
By 
Sarah (Feeling Fictional) (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Sometimes a book comes along that will captivate you from the very first page and doesn't let go until you've finished reading it, for me The Night Circus was one of those books. In fact, when I reached the end I was very tempted to turn back to the first page and start reading it again. This has to be the most impressive debut I've read in a long time and I can't wait to see what Erin Morgenstern comes up with next, she has a rich imagination and a beautiful writing style that I'm sure will only improve in future books.

The story of The Night Circus begins with two magicians who both have different ideas on the best way to train an apprentice in the art of magic. They agree to a challenge and decide to pit their trainees against each other in a game that will take years to complete, a challenge that only one of them will survive. Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams) becomes the setting for his duel with Celia and Marco the unwitting pawns in the game with neither of them knowing the rules or even who their opponent is. The plot meanders towards the finish line but this book is all about the journey, the circus itself is a wonderful place to spend time in and is so beautifully described that it's like you're really there. You can see the acrobats and illusionists, you'll smell and taste the popcorn and caramel, you will walk through the labyrinth, spend time in the ice garden and possibly even make a wish at the wishing tree. I don't think I've ever been so fully transported into another world.

The circus wouldn't be the same without it's fantastic cast of characters, everyone from the performers to the reveurs (people who are so captivated by the circus that they follow it from town to town) have their role to play. I have to say that I loved the twins Poppet and Widget along with their friend Bailey but most of all I enjoyed seeing Celia and Marco grow into their roles as they tried to compete with each other. The story skips backwards and forwards in time and gradually unfolds as you start to realise how everything fits together, leading up to a breathtaking finale in a book that you won't want to end.

The Night Circus is a book that I will definitely be re-reading and I know I will be recommending it again and again to friends and family. I wish I could wipe the experience of reading it from my mind just so that I could pick it up and enjoy it for the first time all over again. If you want to be transported to a different world to experience the joys of the circus as if you were a child again then I would highly recommend this story. This will definitely make my best books of 2011 list and Erin Morgenstern has become an automatic buy author for me in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree, 22 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
There is nothing i can say about The Night Circus that other 5 star reviewers have not already said, but nonetheless feel a need to add my appreciation of this fantastical, immersive book to the rest of the songs of praise and delight.

If you like the darkly glittering world of the magic realism of adult myth and magic a la Angela Carter, chances are this first book (alas, there are no more to read, as yet!) by Erin Morgenstern will snap you into its beautifully formed world and not let go.

As I read this period late Victorian story with shifting time scales and locations, a story of two rival magicians, one working from the outside in, and one from the inside out, to dislocate reality, I was reminded of Carter, of Prospero's fantastic island (one magician is indeed called Prospero the Enchanter - though his daughter firmly resists being called Miranda), but also, increasingly of the fantastical, dreamy, yet perfectly physicalised world of Coleridge's poetic fragment.

This is a world to wonder at, delight in, and even more, to yearn to find. Morgenstern describes the phyysical world of the circus in precise and sumptuous detail, so it feels as if it must be real.

Her story, in many ways, is a simple one - two professional opponents engaged in a game and conflict against each other, stopping at nothing to win. However, the opponents are magicians, disguising what they do as 'stage magic' and illusion, though in fact, this is glittering magick - think Christopher Priest The Prestige (GOLLANCZ S.F.), though with a feminine, more sensual and delicate sensibility. Not so much steam-punk more sensual fin de siecle decadence and artistry - a sort of Arts and Crafts delight in the stuff of the material world, the costumes, the clocks, the perfumes. Another pointer might be The Stockholm Octavo - since Morgenstern, like Karen Engelmann, has an artist's, sensual feel for the look and material heft, colour and taste of her world. This is also a love story, and a story which dislocates the reader's sense of time and place, making us as convinced of this world which shimmers in and out of time and space, as are the fictional characters who visit the circus.

I have one criticism of Morgenstern - she has spoilt my love of reading fiction for a while - the brilliant creation of her Night Circus world has seeped into reality, and i am still half in habitation of it, so unable, yet, to surrender to another author's imagination. I envy anyone about to start reading this book!

For myself, all I can do is don the black and white, add a small dash of red to my clothing, and hope to be spotted by a fellow reveur who may tell me where the night circus is next due. Magical!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book arrived with no warning..., 25 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Sometimes, once in a while, you will pick up a book on a whim and it will work its way so thoroughly into your heart you won't understand how you went so long without.

The Night Circus is such a book. I promise you it will weave its way into your thoughts and dreams. It is one of the most lyrical books I have ever read. The prose is so beautiful and the whole book has a wonderfully dreamlike quality. I don't want to talk to much about the plot or the characters because Morgenstern introduces both so perfectly and delicately that to give you a synopsis would ruin it. So I'm going to need you to go on a little faith here from one book lover to another. This is a novel worth every page. I defy you not to become a rêveur yourself by the end. You'll understand what I mean.

This a book waiting to be fallen in love with and re-read over and over again.
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90 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Step Right Up!, 15 Sept. 2011
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not."

So our story begins - the circus just appearing out of the ether as did my advance review copy of this debut novel, much to my delight. The UK edition looks stunning with black edged paper and end papers illustrated with a pattern of bowlers and top hats. This is a feast for the eyes which is perhaps not surprising as the author is an artist but will the inside match the luxurious facade?

This is an odd review for me as, amid all my oohing and ahhing, I was all too aware of how some of my bookish friends would absolutely hate this book and would be cringing from the opening pages. So, best to get that elephant out of the room before I go any further! If you don't like magical realism, if you're not a fan of meandering narratives, if you prefer action, if you don't like novels written in the present tense, if you don't like fantasy then there's nothing for you here. However, if, like me, you do like a bit of escapism, you like to slip into another world, if you enjoy visual stimulation, then step right up!

The story is perhaps the least important element of The Night Circus, that role being reserved for the circus itself but yes, there is an underlying narrative, the story of two gifted young illusionists, Celia and Marco, being pitted against each other in a lengthy battle the rules of which are vague. Le Cirque de Reves (the Circus of Dreams) is the battlefield and it soon attracts a faithful following of "reveurs" (dreamers) who follow its progress from town to town, continent to continent by means of a shadowy underground movement. There is a secondary storyline involving Bailey, a country boy who becomes linked to the circus and will have a key role in future events. There is a varied cast of weird and wonderful characters, including Celia's villainous father, Hector, his rival, Alexander, the man in the great suit as well as the supporting cast who keep the circus going. These are not characters you expect to empathise with, this is a show after all and they are there to entertain you just as the various tents house a myriad of visually stunning scenes, the Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, the Labyrinth etc.

Some have compared The Night Circus with Audrey Niffenegger and yes, I can see slight similarities given that both authors are visual artists. Others mention Alice Hoffman and yes, I can see some elements in common but Erin Morgenstern has created a unique world with the Cirque de Reves and for those who are on the right wavelength she has provided a pathway to a singularly enchanting universe, one in which my inner child revelled. Highly recommended for all "reveurs"/dreamers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If candy floss were a book this would be it- sweet and looks promising but with very little substance, 27 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
I had been looking forward to reading this for aaages, so whether this factored in how disappointing I found it, I don’t know.

I had to nibble away at this book, chapter by chapter.

Every time I got into a scene I got whisked away somewhere else, I was never allowed to settle, after a while this got wearying, then boring.

The premise was intriguing, the cover was enticing, the plot was there, even the writing skills and descriptions were there, but because it dotted around so much I just found myself distracted by almost anything that wasn’t the story.

You never got to hang around any of the characters long enough to connect, large sections of the story could be condensed into, “ this was added to the circus, isn’t it pretty?”

I can describe this book in one four letter word, “nice”, the characters were intriguing, but not enough to save the book, the storyline was o.k, but it could have been spectacular.

And that’s the rub, it could have been spectacular, if it had been laid out in a more linear fashion, if the author stuck to one scene for more than a few pages at a time, if we’d gotten to know the characters under the skin as well as outfits they wore and the circus they worked in.

I liked how it ended, it didn’t need a big flashy finish, but the journey to get to the end felt like a mirage, all glitz and glamour and no substance.

Perhaps if I’d read it in another time and place maybe it would be something more than it was, but I read it here and now and it simply felt flat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful and precious, but narcissistically so, and ultimately a little empty, 12 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
The Night Circus itself is at the heart of this book in several ways, and Erin Morgenstern wants you to know how enchanting it is. This book is full of descriptive passages conveying the Circus's beauty, some using the second person to walk you through your own visit, and others describing the new attractions designed by the book's protagonists, who are forcibly engaged in competition with one another. I was as enchanted as anyone at first, but in my experience the Circus got a little old. There's nothing surprising or original about either of the protagonists or how their relationship evolves until the very end, when they are put in a difficult situation. The book's obscure rules about magic are then used to deliver a compromise solution that, though it's not completely ideal, still feels like a deus ex machina.

For me, the most interesting characters were the secondary ones: the Circus's twins Poppet and Widget - whose relationship with the mysterious man in the grey suit is charming to read - and Bailey, a child who falls in love with the Circus and assumes a fundamental role in its future. The journeys of these characters were the best things about the book, whereas the central protagonists and their mentors offer no new takes on old tropes. There is a touch of death and loss, but without spoiling anything you never feel as though your favourite characters are in danger. Though the protagonists' mentors are clearly indifferent to the suffering of their charges, this fairy tale never feels as sinister as it could and perhaps should, which undermines the tension. The Circus itself starts out enchanting, but is pushed too hard for my taste, and winds up feeling overwritten.

In fairness, I'm not usually one for love stories, and prefer my escapist/fairy-tale fantasies with a little more darkness. If you're looking for a sweet magical love story, you'll probably fall for this book as so many others have. But if you have it in you to be cynical, or you demand originality, tension, and variance in tone, Morgenstern's spell will likely wear off in the last third, and you'll find yourself feeling apathetic by the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An experience more than a story, 14 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
So, this is a tough one. I still can't make up my mind about this book. I'm hovering between 3 and 4 stars. I don't want to give away any spoilers because it really would spoil the effect of the book for those that want to read it, so I'll give you a potted overview.

The story is about a magical competition between Celia and Marco, instigated by her father and his mentor when they were children. Celia knows very little about the competition, not even who her opponent is, while Marco knows much more. And the location for the contest is Le Cirque des Reves. They do battle by creating more and more elaborate experiences (tents) within the circus, neither knowing how the contest will be won, but knowing there can be only one winner. Of course, there is the inevitable love story that ensues, though for a large part of the book the two protagonists are kept apart.

What was wonderful about this book was Morgenstern's beautiful, often elaborate prose and intricate descriptions. The tents, and what happened within them, really came to life with her detail and atmosphere. You felt as though you were really there and these magical experiences could actually be real because of the dexterity of the author. One of my favourite things in the circus was Herr Theissen's clock. What an extraordinary imagination Morgenstern has.

However, I also feel as though this was the book's weakest point as well. Because the circus was described in every detail, from the clothes to the food at the Midnight Dinners and the smells of the circus, because the story was told from so many points of view and places in time, I found it, not difficult, but awkward to really develop any attachments to the characters. I wasn't swept away with the story, but rather with the imagery.

Perhaps this was the author's intent. The book actually felt like someone's dream, one of those rare dreams that we all occasionally have that feels so real that when we wake up we feel disappointed because it didn't actually happen. The Night Circus was less of a story and more of an experience.

If Morgenstern could shape her characters as satisfyingly as she shapes the world she puts them in, I think she could be a prodigious talent. For a debut novel I was very impressed and I will certainly be interested to see what else she writes. It's not going to be one of my favourite books but all told, I think the book deserves 4 stars for the sheer commitment and bravery Morgenstern displays in not leaving any descriptive stone unturned. Not many books are written in this fashion and I admire her for trying something unusual. How successfully she achieves it is up to you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great literature, 15 Oct. 2012
By 
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
I finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern yesterday after just 3 days of reading. I find it an amazing piece of work, and the best book I've read since I finally got round to reading Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending earlier this year.

The thing that gripped me was the voice, from the very first sentence. Written in the present tense, which I know is not very popular with many people for some reason, it still transported me into the past, and evoked all sorts of emotions in me, including a longing for my past, a wish to be able to influence more the future, and a determination to de-chaos the present. I know this sounds odd, but very good books lead the reader to some kind of catharsis.

The only thing I could nitpick are that, occasionally, sentences which really should be split by a full stop are only marginally separated by a comma.

I couldn't care less that the book has been really hyped, nor that there have been some fairly scathing reviews of it. To have what one might describe as a slow burner of a book which runs along diverging and then converging time lines, which sees dialogue as only part of the story, and one subservient to observation, description and atmosphere is a wonderful thing. To be able to hold a book in my hand that I know I can go back to over and over again to read favourite passages to myself, to take from the shelf on a rainy day and escape from the English weather is a boon in an age when the market is populated by celebrity memoirs and poorly-written, hardly-remembered pap.

If this seems overly effusive, I'm not sorry. This is a great book, and, for me, great literature.

R
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 9 Jan. 2013
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Night Circus (Paperback)
Everyone has experienced at least one novel when you know from the second you pick it up that you're not going to be able to put it down. Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus was one such book for me.

Essentially, the novel tells the story of two competing magicians and their protégé's Celia and Marco. Against the backdrop of Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams) these two trainees are pitted against each other in an elaborate challenge that spans years and binds the two young protagonists together in more ways than one. Competing to out-do each other with displays of increasingly brilliant magic, neither Celia nor Marco know how or when the contest will end. All they know is that there can only be one winner.

The circus, with its wonderfully individual and meticulously described signature clock and its individual tents with fantastical names like the Pool of Tears, appeals to all the senses. Every detail is recorded with such brilliant imagination and detail that the reader is transported there through the pages. Add to that the fact that the circus only appears at night, and the whole book feels as if you've entered a magical (quite literally!) dream world. In the end, the circus itself is central to the survival of Celia and Marcus, who battle to save their love against all odds and against the will of magic itself.

I'm actually jealous of all those who have yet to read this as I'd love to do it all over again.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreamlike and gorgeous, but flawed, 1 Dec. 2011
By 
K. Marzillier (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I struggled to decide how many stars to give this book. On the one hand, I loved it. On the other, it fails as a story.

This is a story about the proteges of two magicians, bound by their mentors to play a mysterious game against each other. The playing area for the game is the Cirque des Reves - a circus which arrives and departs with no warning and only opens at night. Everything within the circus is black, white or shades of grey. There are acrobats, contortionists, big cat tamers, each the best of their kind, and a bonfire that burns pure white and never goes out. In one tent an illusionist - Celia, one of the players in the game - carries out impossible feats. In another a fortune teller (the lover of the other player, Marco) reads the cards for visitors. The circus is the brainchild of a group of eccentric and creative people who meet for wonderfully-described Midnight Dinners to plan it, but who find themselves unable to escape the pull of the dreamlike world they have created. As the circus travels, new tents appear, with Marco and Celia building tents for each other. They must play against each other, but they each are drawn to the mystery and beauty of each other's work, and eventually to each other.

If you read this book, it should be for the magical world of the circus. You feel as though you are really there, wandering through the circus, peering into the tents. You can feel the chilly night air, smell the smoke from the bonfire and taste the caramel apples. The short descriptions of individual tents scattered between the chapters are marvellous (the Pool of Tears, in particular, sticks in my mind). The circus is wonderfully visualised - I can see the clock, the black and white tents with their strings of lights, the "reveurs" dressed in black and white with their splash of red. The world of the Cirque des Reves is dreamlike and spellbinding.

However, the central narrative of the book is lacking. The competition is set up well, the mystery of the circus detailed throughout the book (though many questions raised about the circus are not answered by the end), but the characters are flat and the story underwritten in comparison to Morgenstern's incredible realisation of the world she has created. In the end it was the fate of the circus that mattered much more to me than the competition or the relationship between Marco and Celia.

Despite the lack of plot (once I realised there really wasn't going to be much of a plot) and the characters not feeling fully drawn, I did love this book. This is an incredibly visual and beautiful book, and worth reading for that alone. It is very unusual to find a book that succeeds so well in one area but fails in another, but this is one of those books. The hardback is a gorgeous book, with black-tipped pages and a stunning cover - worth seeking out if you can.
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