Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Brilliant
The Night Circus was an impulse buy, so I was expecting anything between Twilight and Cirque Du Freak. And honestly by the cover I wasn't lead to believe anything different. If this was some softcore erotica, I wouldn't have been surprised. I'd never even heard of Erin Morgenstern, nor did I like circuses.
And then, of course, I peeled open the beautifully made cover and I met the introduction. Like a particularly rusty nail meets a sledgehammer.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky . . . with an elaborate wrought iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. (Morgenstern, 3)
The diction is and proceeds to be deceptive. Deceptive, because it is so simply written you could hear it being said, yet so vivid you sometimes can't wrap yourself around it. I find the introduction does well to describe the basic structure for the novel.
First, the circus is not there. Everything you are introduced to for a few pages seems utterly inconsequential. Here's a little girl, there are some magicians . . . you almost expect something to jump out at you. It's interesting, but only because of the subtle dialogue and the curiosity it leaves you with. But the diction is so addicting. I couldn't help but fall in love with Erin Morgenstern's voice from page one, and it lit up her first scenes like candlelight.
Second, the circus is alive. And it lights up the night in its monochromatic wonder. Morgenstern's description of the circus and all of its workings alone are the second best bit of this novel for me. The circus itself is as much a part of the show as the performers. For instance:
The edges are metal, oxidized to a blackish tinge, but the side panels and the lid are clear glass, so [the contortionist] is visible the entire time as she bends and twists and folds herself into the tiny space. She does it slowly . . . And then the glass box with the woman trapped inside slowly fills with white smoke. It curls through the tiny cracks and spaces . . . The smoke thickens . . . (140, 141)
Fourth, that number quickly changes.
Third, the circus has no followers.
Oh, yes, did I mention the novel is told in a few different perspectives from varying timelines? No? Well it's quite important. Because it's something else that seems so utterly inconsequential. I could hear myself think "I absolutely don't care about these little kids get back to Chandresh, please" the first time the narration was interrupted in this manner, even though I was utterly lost in the beautiful descriptions of the circus when it was completed.
But that's the thing about this novel. It's slow. If you like action, and plots the speed of light then this novel is not for you. No, this novel is like baking a cake and eating it. It is a time-consuming, careful process. And it becomes delicious. Scratch the cake, you're building the circus a piece at a time and you can't spare a second to look at the whole thing because the individual pieces are crafted so beautifully.
So like that little splotch of color in the black and white circus, there is a romance. And a fair warning: much of it is very underplayed. This is where the book seems dialogue heavy, and where narration seems spared for the vivid and beautiful words. The two main love interests are kind of thrown together. Their love, as I see it, is almost a necessity. They have days together where they craft it like one of their exhibitions, long days that you lose yourself in. No one else could hope to understand them but each other. Their creations are the most exposition we are allowed of them. It is how we infer on their growth when they're apart. And like everything, this romance a slow process with twists and turns, scrapes and bruises but beautiful nonetheless. A full appreciation for the romance can only be felt at the end of the novel . . . that's all I can say.
I don't think you're meant to be imagining how to please your opponent. (344)
The only ship I'll ever ship though is Poppet and Baily <3
And finally, my absolute, achingly favorite favorite part of this novel: the secondary characters. They have so much depth it actually hurts to call them secondary characters. They have the best lines, the saddest smiles, the coolest quirks, the most heartbreaking hearts, and the darkest secrets. But as usual, check them out for yourself! Especially the twins, Poppet and Widget.
The past says on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers. (263)
As a side note, I see quite a bit of hate on the character development and exposition of the characters by other reviewers. In reply, I would like to point out my favorite character: Chandresh. If his isn't a magnificent dynamic that serves to twine the whole of the plot and countless amounts of characters together, then I honestly don't know what is. I do agree that Marco and Celia could have grown considerably more as lovers and even as competitors. Not only did I long for moments when their love could flourish around the middle of the novel, I also saw myself wanting more and more of their game. I wanted it to become a terrible, horrible, tragic thing. But that's not what this book is about. So though I agree, I disagree. Hence the .25 star reduction. Sue me.
What's your favorite circus act?
Let us know in the comments!
Let us know in the comments!