The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a scintillating debut, a novel every bit as magical and enticing as its title entity. Told in a unique narrative fashion, the book melds and flows in unexpected ways from page one. Morgenstern’s prose is among the best I have ever head the pleasure to read. Her descriptions of everything (and there is certainly a lot to describe!) are magical and delightful, as is the detail that goes into building her circa-1900 world. This coupled with the present tense tone of the book, and her ethereal writing style, makes for an experience rivaled by few other books. The reader often feels part of the circus, as if it is really he or she wandering the various black and white tents at night, and not Herr Thiessen or Bailey Clarke.
The story itself is also quite exemplary (though not quite as magnificent as the prose), and is able to quite unapologetically drag you along in such a way that you find yourself awake at 2 AM and wonder “When the hell did it get so late?” The story, though told mainly through the lives of its main characters, is really the tale of the circus. The book tells of the magical contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, whose unforgiving masters force them to use the circus as a playing field for showing off their talents. It also tells the story of Bailey Clarke, a young boy whose journey, while at first odd and seemingly unrelated to the circus, is every bit as magical as that of Celia and Marco (Though without the actual magic).
Both of these two “main” plotlines (there are a couple chapters which delve into different matters—Herr Thiessen and the reveurs, for example) are engaging and keep you interested. Neither is without their faults, however, as both suffer dry, slower spells. However, each slower section of one plotline coincides with a particularly entertaining portion of the other, thus preventing any slow moments at all in this book. Overall, however, both plotlines are equally amazing and magical, and in the end, neither even comes close to disappointing.
A large, though occasionally two-dimensional supporting cast aids these three characters in their various journeys. They range from as fascinating and well-developed as main characters(Prospero, Mr. A. H., and Herr Thiessen) to the Morgenstern equivalent of Hufflepuff (Tante Padva and the Burgess twins).
Now, despite all my ravings about this book, you may have picked up on a few smaller criticisms. And yes, it is true, this book is not without flaws. Character growth is practically nonexistent in this book, the only ones who really develop are the younger ones (Bailey and his friends). The book takes some steps to explain some of this issue, but the explanation does not quite account for the dearth of emotional growth. Interestingly enough, the biggest problem with the book is its two main main characters, Marco and Celia. Though initially well-rounded and likable, their completely predictable falling in love seems to have a negative effect on both of these character aspects, flattening them out somewhat, and losing a little bit of that likability. The third problem I had with the book was its ending. Though technically correct and fine, it broke my suspension of disbelief. This is due to the final conflict being solved in a way that, to me, felt slightly superficial, and amazingly easy. It also made use of magic that we had not seen used before in the book, and while it did not technically violate any rules set; it still felt vaguely like a Deus Ex Machina (despite the lack of Gods).
Conclusion? An amazingly fun book that’s problems are more than made up for by an entertaining plot and some beautiful, magical prose. Every aspect of this book is mind-meltingly well described, and Morgenstern’s attention to detail is stunning. (And boy do some of those foods sound good!) This book is one of the best I’ve read all year, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys to read, especially a great book.
Final Rating: 9/10