The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book Review

I came across The Night Circus in February this year. I listened to the first 2 or 3 chapters of the audiobook. The character names, location and timeline were all so confusing that I finally gave up. Even then, I knew in my heart that I wanted to pick up this book again. But never got a chance until last month. When @bookedbound and @dashofdarktales announced the buddy read book for August as The Night Circus, I knew this was the chance I was waiting for. Thank you so much for hosting this buddy read.

The circus called Le Cirque des Rêves, The Night Circus, arrives without warning. There is never an announcement preceding its arrival. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. As the name suggests, it is only open at night. Within the circus, a duel is underway between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. They have been trained since childhood for the duel. But they are not aware of the rules or how a victor emerges. Things get complicated when they fall in love with each other.

The first thing that struck me in the book was the vivid detailed description of the circus. I could see myself walking through it exploring the different tents and I seriously wished for it to be real. I wanted to experience the different attractions offered by The Night Circus. The circus was truly magical.

The story centers around Celia and Marco who are bound to each through a competition whose rules or consequences aren’t explained to them. They are thrust into the competition during their childhood by two very highly skilled magicians – Celia’s father Hector Bowen and a man who is only known as Mr. A.H. They have wildly different teaching methods and relationship with their students.

Celia does not know who her opponent is until much later. Even then we can see their relationship develop through their creations at the circus. Both of them are awed by the other’s abilities. When they do meet the tension between them is quite evident. I loved how the temperature in the room literally goes up and the lights flicker when they touch. Tsukiko, the contortionist in the circus, explains to them the reason for their bond. My heart went out to Tsukiko when her past is revealed and we know who she really is.

We are also introduced to many different characters who come into Celia and Marco’s lives and are unknowingly affected and changed by the circus and their competition. Initially I did wonder why we were given more insight into some of the characters more than others. But they all tie up nicely in the end. My favorite characters were the twins, Widget and Poppet. They truly complemented each other even in their magical abilities. Widget could see the past in a person and Poppet could read the future in the stars. When they take their friend Bailey around the different attractions of the circus, I wished I was given the tour by Widget and Poppet.

The timeline is non-linear and I struggled with it at the start even though the dates were mentioned at the beginning of each chapter. I was reading it as an eBook and it was difficult when I had to keep going back to see which year or month the previous chapter was in. Then I started writing down the date in each chapter so that I didn’t have to go back. The book was also a bit slow at the start. Almost everyone in the buddy read group felt the same way. The pace picks up only halfway through the book. But it is worth sticking around.

It’s not just Celia and Marco who doesn’t know the rules of the competition, we are never told about it either. The whole competition is mysterious and I never felt there was any competition at all. There is a good build up for the explosion at the end but I felt the ending failed to live up to the hype created. It was as if the ending just came and went without anything much happening. There was no tension, no nail-biting scenes, no wow moment. The ending could have been done better.

Bailey ends up being the most important person for the circus. His character development is done well and he has a good backstory. But that’s it. It’s not very clear how he takes the circus forward or how he handles it. I would have loved to read about this as an epilogue.

I also loved the conversation between Widget and Mr. A.H at the end. But I do wish I knew more about Mr. A.H. other than that he wears a grey suit. I was expecting to read some kind of backstory about him towards the end.

In short, the book is great with some wonderful imagery and characters though the ending could have been done better.

My Rating: 4⭐/5.

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