Thursday, July 05, 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Release date: July 3, 2012 (Paperback)
by Anchor Canada

 

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. 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. 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.

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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

*A copy was provided by Random House Canada for review purposes*

The Night Circus is like cake. Cake without frosting. Sure, cake is good, some people will even prefer dry, plain cake all by itself, but others, such as myself, need the sugary sweetness of frosting. Some may prefer the milder whip frosting. Or maybe even caramel or candy to put the final touches on our taste buds. Either way, plain cake, no matter how moist, is not for everyone.

Yes, the writing is beautiful. Beyond beautiful. It’s magnificent and breathtaking; the detailed scenery, the magic, the multitude of formidable descriptions of each tent inside this circus is all absolutely stunning. Furthermore, the approach taken to tell the story is excellent. We’ve got the journey in past and present, walking alongside the characters their whole lives, in addition, we get our very own walk inside this resplendent circus which adds a truly delightful touch to the story. Unfortunately, this is the only aspect of the book I enjoyed: The writing.

While I appreciate more literary books, — a lot of my favorites are slow paced, extremely well-read books that managed to not only tell me a story, but actually make me live it — The Night Circus’ strongly lethargic plot fails to let it radiate life within its beauty. Filling a book with pizzazz is simply not enough for me. I need a compelling storyline, I need fabulous characters. This is where I was left highly underwhelmed. The “competition” we constantly hear of is kept very vague, not really letting us in which only left me confused as to the point of the plot, not to mention let down by the absence of its “fierceness” that the blurb promises. Knowing that sometimes all I need is a little patience to eventually get blown away, I kept my hopes up and didn’t give up. I was slightly more satisfied at the end, very slightly, though I was expecting much more out of this highly praised novel. If you want to read a book to simply enjoy its outward extravagance, I can see you loving it. However, expect over 500 pages of nothing more.

Strong characters can make a world of difference in books such as this. Characters I would have grown to love, to adore. Characters that would have made an impression on me emotionally. A deep investment in such characters could have made this an instant favorite. Instead what I got were colorless characters with weak personalities that I could not have been less concerned about. Maybe I was distracted by the glamor (catch-22?), maybe it was all the back and forth; whatever the reason, these characters remained characters to me. I never got to know them. I never got to feel their presence, their soul, inside this tale. Where it should have been filled with passion and devotion, sometimes misery, this was only communicated with sentences, not with the actual emotions I was expected to garner. The only character I was mildly interested in was Bailey and his parts, though not insignificant, are far and few.

Your enjoyment of this book will seriously depend on what you’re looking for. It’s an exquisitely well-written book full of riches and gorgeous descriptions. If this is enough to lure you in and enchant you – I assure you you will be blown away. If an engaging plot and great characterization are also essential for you to have a great reading experience, you won’t find it here. Ultimately, you’ll either love it, or you won’t.

Me, I need my frosting.


2 Espressos
Think you will be one to love this book?

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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40 Responses to “Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern”

  1. booktasty

    Thanks for your honest thoughts! I have the audiobook on hold at my library and pick it up today actually! Im excited to see if I need frosting too! :)

  2. Danny

    I have the audiobook and I listened to a few chapters but never really got into the story, at all! I treid because I love the sound of it and I heard so many good things…

    But basically I had the same feeling like you just for the little I listened to…

  3. Sam

    Hmm… interesting review! I’ve always wanted to read this book after all the great things I’ve heard, but now I am having second thoughts. The writing does sound wonderful, but it’s a shame the plot and characters had little substance. I have to really be invested in a story to fully appreciate it, and it sounds like this is a difficult books for that. Helpful review, Giselle! Sorry this wasn’t for you. :)

  4. Amy

    Hmmm I had really wanted to read this book, but I don’t think I will be in a rush to read it now. I need my frosting too. I have a hard time really enjoying a book if I don’t really feel the characters at all and I need a good storyline. I probably wouldn’t enjoy this one much more than you. We are #Soulmates after all.

  5. Lalaine

    I’ve only read the first three pages of this book and I was like Meh.I knew it wasnt my cup of tea.

    I think beautifully written story is good, but great characterization is even better for me. No point of reading a book if all I do is bash the characters in my head the whole time im reading it. :D

    Great review Giselle. X

    Hope your next read will be better.

    Ƹ̴Ӂ̴ƷFICBOOKREVIEWSƸ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ

  6. Nick

    I saw this book at my local bookstore for a flipping $25. I’m glad I didn’t buy it since I can’t stand characters that have no personality. I too need books with strong characters no matter how beautiful the writing is. It seems like the book had a lot of potential.
    Great honest review, Giselle. :)
    I love cake with frosting too ! ;)

  7. ❤ Vivian

    This is an …indescribably well-written review, Giselle! I’ve never seen this book before, but I think your points are so well presented, and I do understand that no-frosting feeling. To be honest, I believe anyone can string a group of well-chosen words together. The depth of writing is what separates things because it shows what’s beyond the writing, as it gives you characters that you’ll feel for (or not, in this case), and shine with a light important emotions or morals/values of life. It seems that this book doesn’t quite go too far there :( Anyhow, I really, really enjoyed this review!! <3

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  8. ❤ Vivian

    This is an …indescribably well-written review, Giselle! I’ve never seen this book before, but I think your points are so well presented, and I do understand that no-frosting feeling. To be honest, I believe anyone can string a group of well-chosen words together. The depth of writing is what separates things because it shows what’s beyond the writing, as it gives you characters that you’ll feel for (or not, in this case), and shine with a light important emotions or morals/values of life. It seems that this book doesn’t quite go too far there :( Anyhow, I really, really enjoyed this review!! <3

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  9. ❤ Vivian

    This is an …indescribably well-written review, Giselle! I’ve never seen this book before, but I think your points are so well presented, and I do understand that no-frosting feeling. To be honest, I believe anyone can string a group of well-chosen words together. The depth of writing is what separates things because it shows what’s beyond the writing, as it gives you characters that you’ll feel for (or not, in this case), and shine with a light important emotions or morals/values of life. It seems that this book doesn’t quite go too far there :( Anyhow, I really, really enjoyed this review!! <3

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  10. ❤ Vivian

    This is an …indescribably well-written review, Giselle! I’ve never seen this book before, but I think your points are so well presented, and I do understand that no-frosting feeling. To be honest, I believe anyone can string a group of well-chosen words together. The depth of writing is what separates things because it shows what’s beyond the writing, as it gives you characters that you’ll feel for (or not, in this case), and shine with a light important emotions or morals/values of life. It seems that this book doesn’t quite go too far there :( Anyhow, I really, really enjoyed this review!! <3

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  11. Shane

    Ouch! I love this review, very thorough and honest. I’ve been meaning to read this one and I think I will to see how i’ll react to it. Thanks for another great review!

  12. Jackie M.

    I’ve heard a lot of love/meh over this one. I’m curious to read it and see what I think. Sorry it wasn’t a highly frosted cake for you :)) Great review!

  13. Mimi Valentine

    This book is definitely one that excels in writing and beauty but falls short in characterization! I actually kind of adored it for that — because the magic was so beautiful and the circus was so enchanting — but I’m sorry that it fell short for you. I wanted more Bailey too :’)

    Beautiful honest review, Giselle! Sometimes I forget how amazing a writer you are, but you just reminded me here :) <3

  14. Kara_Malinczak

    Fantastic review. That’s pretty much exactly how I felt. I DNFed it, but because you completed the book and still had a similar impression, I feel validated in my decision to not finish. So, thank you for that.

  15. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    While you know I don’t feel the same, this is a great review. I personally loved this one, I felt lost in the beautiful writing but it is DEFINITELY a slow paced novel. I’m not sure what it was about this one because normally I get super bored with slow books too but this one kept me captivated. And your review made me hungry.

  16. Shooting Stars Mag

    I like how you related it to cake. I need my frosting too. I’m honestly the type of person that wants to be sucked into the storyline and the character (I’m a HUGE character person) because too much description actually drives me nuts. Doesn’t sound like I’d enjoy this one!

    -Lauren

  17. Stephsco

    I just posted a review of this on Monday. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but I completely get your take on the plot and needing more from the characters. I kept turning the pages waiting for the epic moment of the competition, then halfway through realized this WAS the competition, it’s very subtle fashion, unfolding in fragments. But, the imagry and unique concept sold me overrall.

    I read so much Young Adult these days that I hardly read third person narratives with a large cast of characters revolving through an objective POV, so some of the vagueness and distance I experience I attributed to being out of touch with this type of storytelling. Valid points.

  18. Melliane

    I can understand your feeling and I think the worst is that you read the book after a lot of reviews, so you expect something long before reading it. I don’t think I could do that, I’m always disappointed at the end…

  19. Natalia Belikov @ Dazzling Reads

    Oh crap really? I love beautiful writing (who dosnt?) but that’s never enough to captivate and overwhelm people. Sadly this book didnt reached your standards sniff. I havent read it but I am sad to hear the characters are just that… characters.
    Great review my dear and nice analogy. SO bad it wasn’t a yummy read.

  20. Kristin @ My ParaHangover

    When there are so many books out there that have it all, strength of characters, well written and a striking world, I wonder how books that miss some of those elements get to be so popular and “mainstream”. I held back on this one b/c something was telling me it was going to miss the mark.

    Maybe we’re getting spoiled b/c of the shear number of books we read. But why can’t some of our little known favorites make it big, too?!?! I’m just jealous on behalf of my fave authors :P

  21. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I do agree about the frosting. Now, unless it’s a nice, buttery pound cake, I definitely need the frosting. While I’ve heard people rave about this story, I’ve also heard what you were talking about. Not sure if this is a story for me.

  22. Jen H

    Great review!! I actually didn’t write a review for this one because I didn’t know how to describe my feelings for it. I was disappointed, but I though maybe it was because I listened to the audiobook. You just described what I was missing, yet couldn’t identify. Kudos for the honest review.
    ~ Jen @ A Book and a Latte

  23. Renae

    What an excellent review! I think you’ve managed to pin-point my own thoughts on The Night Circus. I loved the writing and imagery, but the drive and push of a good plot were missing.

  24. Aneeqah

    There’s been SO much buzz about this book, so I’m sorry that you didn’t fall in love with this one, Giselle. I always prefer my frosting on cakes, so I think I’ll have to pass up on this one [I really love that cake analogy, by the way!]. Plot is pretty important to me in a book, and the fact that this book lacks one is really unappealing for me. Sorry that this one didn’t work out for you, Giselle!!

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

  25. Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue

    I need my frosting, too! I had a copy of this one awhile back but gave it away, which I kinda regret, because I keep hearing how amazing it is. I do love a book with gorgeous writing, but I also want a kick-ass plot to go along with it. At some point I’ll definitely give this one a try. I hope the next book you read is cake WITH frosting! :)

  26. Camille Picott

    Oh, no! When I read the summary, I was sure this book was for me. But I don’t like long books that wax on for pages and pages with description and no story. Just my personal preference. Guess I won’t add this one to my TBR list. Great review!

  27. Candace

    Ive had this one for awhile but haven’t read it yet. I have heard so much good about it yet I feel a bit afraid to read it. I believe the author will be here this fall so I need to read it soon. Even though you didn’t love it, your review was awesome!

  28. Smash Attack!

    I totally get what you are saying about the characters, and now that I look back on it, they were the least entertaining piece of the story. The world-building, and the true character – the circus – are why I loved this book.

  29. Alexa

    I love how honest this review is, and I also think that it’s a fairly done review. I would still read The Night Circus for the beautiful writing, but now I know a little bit more about what to expect.

  30. Aylee

    Hmm. I was so excited to read this when it first came out months ago, but then reviews started coming out like this one saying it just wasn’t for them, so I felt conflicted. I very much like well developed, likeable characters too so I think I would be left wanting in that area as well. If I do read, I’ll try to do my best to keep an open mind, we’ll see. Thanks for the helpful review!

  31. Ikhlas

    Great review! I felt EXACTLY the same way as you in my review, except, I believe I described this book as mere frosting for me: sparkly and pretty descriptions without any substance underneath all the fluff.

    I too was impressed by the more than positive reviews, and thought that I was one of the very few that wasn’t blown away. Glad to know we’re in the same boat!

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