33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Style over substance,
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This review is from: The Night Circus (Vintage Magic) (Hardcover)
"The Night Circus" has been much hyped; predictably, it doesn't quite live up to it. That isn't to say it's bad, exactly, but it's overlong, short on storyline and characterisation, and, overall, is a triumph of style over content. It's beautifully produced, sure, but I grew up reading books that appeared to have been knocked out in the publisher's front room, and style matters less to me than a good story.
The plot, such as it is, concerns two rival magicians who challenge one another to a duel, to be fought by each one's chosen agent, in the arena of the mysterious Cirque des RÍves. The duelling itself largely consists of each agent creating exhibits that outdo the other's, a conceit that falls largely flat relying, as it does, solely on description. This goes on for a couple of decades, during which none of the adults in the circus age; in the meantime, the circus acquires its own fanbase, who call themselves 'RÍveurs', which is, I believe, French for `pretentious twit'. Oh, not that it matters, but the early parts of the story take part in the latter part of the Victorian era. It doesn't matter because, as is so often the case with historically based fantasy, the writer makes no effort at verisimilude, so that nobody speaks in Victorian idiom, thinks or acts like a Victorian, and real-world events of the time are entirely overlooked. Anyway, given that one of the agents is a young man and the other a young woman, inevitably enough they end up falling in love, and, so far as I can tell from the rather clumsily written last couple of chapters, everything ends up all right, or more or less. By that time, I didn't really care much either way.