Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

Publisher:  Doubleday
Release Date: 13 September 2011
Genre:  Fantasy, Magical Realism, Victorian
Format:  Hardcover
Page Count:  387
Source: Library
Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Author website

2 of 5 stars

Gah! What a supremely boring book.

The prose is near perfect, and the descriptions are the best I’ve ever read. But good writing and beautiful descriptions does not a good book make!

This book was boring. I was promised a deadly duel to the death between two star-crossed magic-making lovers, trained since childhood to… destroy each other, perhaps. Instead I was delivered a slow-burn of somewhat related skits interspersed with pretty good second-person descriptions of the most wondrous circus ever imagined. The rivals didn’t even know who each other was until halfway through the book! And the so called ‘game’? What exactly was the point? To prove someone gifted with magic was better at it than someone who learned it through books (or vice versa)? Each ‘move’ was supposed to be an additional tent in the circus? How did that prove anything? And the winner is the person who survives? So, what, exactly, does that mean – that the person who perishes somehow self-combusted from using magic?

And just like… what? What was so ‘mysterious’ about everything? You can’t just dance around in circles, waving your arms and going ‘woooooo, I’m so spooky and mysterious!’ You need to actually give me some answers. It wasn’t mysterious at all, it was just vague!


And then you learn there’s a secret compartment in the hat hiding the rabbit, or that the chick is really squished up into one half of the box, and the trick is forever ruined?

That was like this book. Except without the magic tricks.

“But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway”

Behind the scenes? No, it’s in front of EVERYONE. And a fierce competition? Dude, this ‘competition’ makes slug fights look interesting.

a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors.

1) I don’t see any duels!
2) EXPRESSELY FOR WHAT PURPOSE? Just because you never answer this question doesn’t make it mysterious!

Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

Celia: La la la, I think I’ll create a pretty tent.

Marco: (two years later) Oh yes, here’s another tent that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and it’s certainly not a new move in this ‘game’ (because how does that make sense?)

Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Headfirst? Dude knows who his rival is for years before approaching her. Love from afar is not headfirst. And even if he was in love with her for so long, love without evidence is stalking.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

The game must play out? What game? Literally no one else is involved in the ‘game’. It doesn’t affect the patrons, and it only weirdly affects the other performers because someone else stuck their nose somewhere it wasn’t wanted!

The best part about this book was the descriptions. But even they were presented peeking through fingers over eyes as if to say, ‘If I look too closely, I’ll spoil the MAGIC.’

Also, I found Bailey and Poppet’s romance more interesting than Marco and Celia’s! The romance is definitely NOT and angle to promote in this book.

That being said, I freaking loved reading about all of Celia’s magic. Her colour-changing gown? How did no one realise that was real magic? I want one of those!

This book was not for me, even though I believed BASED ON THE BLURB that it was. My problem was not with the pacing, because I could have read those gorgeous descriptive passages for a long time. My problem is that this mysterious duel between two lovers was never more than a fart in a Jacuzzi.

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About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  1. Hayden

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Nemo! Hopefully you enjoy your stay.

    I must say, this review is brilliant — I felt the exact same way — and you’re a great writer! I can’t wait to see more from you in the future. 🙂


    1. Nemo

      Thank you, Hayden! I was pretty disappointed by the plot, although I believe a lot of other people would think this book was just magical. The descriptions almost make up for it, but not quite.

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