Customer Review

50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreamlike and gorgeous, but flawed, 1 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Night Circus (Vintage Magic) (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Dec 2011 15:03:17 GMT
katherine says:
After reading this review i still bought the book just for the circus and i agree with you completley, by the end of the book i cared nothing for the characters and only for the circus, i still can't decide wether i loved or hated the book.

Posted on 17 Oct 2013 14:55:08 BDT
Hodgeheg says:
Your first paragraph sums up exactly how I felt about this book.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2014 10:05:15 GMT
ABC says:
Me too!
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