Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Disclaimer: I read this book almost two years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy, I’m sure.

The Night Circus is my kind of romance novel. Which is to say, this novel is basically what I want if I ever defect into reading the romance genre. It wasn’t necessarily marketed as such, but it works very well as one (by my standards). Maybe that’s because what romance is there is part of a grander idea, and the sex builds up to a point that didn’t overtake the story. I might even call it more of a Romantic novel than a romance novel, but I doubt such a discussion is what you came here for. I found myself unable to find true fault with this book (which would normally happen if it were a romance novel). In fact, I loved it quite a lot.

If I were to have qualms with it, I would comment on how modest the plot is—how the plot was even reworked, for NaNoWriMo (the contest between the two father figures thrown in only after the fact). The real plot isn’t set up until about page 260, when you finally see the whole picture. The climax happens soon after. Before that, you could tell that Morgenstern’s original idea possibly verged on the too simplistic. Without the added plot structure, this would have been mere short story material.

Another way of critiquing the plot would be to say that she takes no risks with her story or characters. Only sub-characters are killed off. But other than that, I really had no beef with the novel. I was, you could say, enchanted.

Here are some other haphazard thoughts I had:

I loved that the story—not just the cover—has a color scheme. The black and white and red is a theme throughout the novel, and it is hypnotizing. The imagery in the book is it’s best feature, though much is left up to the reader’s imagination. For example, the magic: The descriptions in the book reminded me of the ones in The Magicians by Lev Grossman—a vague way of describing what is happening, yet just enough to keep the mystery entertaining. Some might think this is more telling than showing, but I think it worked for this purpose.

The story is often repetitive in an overlapping way. Not in a redundant way. Nothing about the story seemed exhaustive or overdone, though I remember subjects being talked about more than once or characters doing similar things over and over. But it builds up to things. This is in contrast to how I feel about, say, the repetitive nature of The Just City by Jo Walton (where the same topics are Socratically discussed to barely a new end and you feel stuck).

The characters are very well expressed and I felt like—from what I did know about them—that they were real. Or, I wanted them to be real. Not that they ever seemed fleshed out, because there was always an air of mystery to each one of them, but that was what made me invest in them.


A way of describing this book is: It’s like listening to Florence + the Machine—surreal. I recommend it for those who didn’t really like The Golem and the Jinn or Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but who thought they would. I recommend this for people who don’t like romance, but need something to talk about to their romance genre-loving friends. Also, I WANT a movie.



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