The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published September 13th 2011 by Doubleday
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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…

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.

Reading The Night Circus brought Daughter of Smoke and Bone to mind. Not the plots – the similarities start and stop at them sharing the same genre – but the author’s writing. Like DoSaB, The Night Circus is beautiful. Gorgeous. Super-expensive-decorative-frosting-cupcake pretty. It’s word porn at its finest, the beginning a beautiful, dizzying dream, and I can see – at least in the first few chapters – where all the hype came from. The Night Circus is absolutely magical and otherworldly you almost wish you were in the world, watching the circus unfold.

And I say almost because, in reality, the whole thing is a sort of farce, a contest between two old men who sit around sacrificing lives so they can have bragging rights and rub the fact that they were right in the other’s face. But right about what? The Night Circus never says. On what basis did all the children die? Who knows. The other characters are treated with the same ambiguity: shrouded in broad, sweeping paragraphs of prose that do everything but go in depth about their character (nothing). Celia and Marco’s relationship is built on a basis that is almost as solid as the old men’s’ contest. The other characters’ faces fade into the overly developed setting as if the author created them then tugged them around like puppets with no real aim.

There is no sense of urgency. There is no end, save for when the pages run out into the obligatory happily ever after. Reading The Night Circus is akin to playing a game of Monopoly with gorgeous prose – nice at first, but then the novelty wears off as all the property’s purchased, and then you’re just going around and around, waiting for the whole thing to just. End.

(But I really, really thought I’d love it.)

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