The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In three words:

Magic, circus, duel



What I thought:

Do you believe in magic? You might just do after reading this book.

The hype for this book has been everywhere: if you’ve missed it you have possibly been under a rock for the past few months. Normally, if a book has SO much hype I give it a wide berth until it has all died down so that I can read it and savour it on my own but this one had me so intrigued and convinced that I would love it that I was itching to read it. Magic and Victorians, I thought; what’s not to love?

Unfortunately quite a lot. Despite loving parts of it, most of it left me hugely underwhelmed. OK, so let’s talk about what I liked about it first: the images created from this book were vivid – the costumes and the settings were largely well written and I could see them easily in my head. Infact, one thing that I loved was that several years ago I had visited the Cirque du Soleil and I remember a really heady smell of powder and costume paint in the tent, and reading this book managed to evoke that sense again which made me smile. I loved the tents and what was in them – acrobatic kittens, snowy wonderlands, the labarynth eating caramel and chocolate popcorn. I also loved the tent where whenever you took the lid of a random bottle you were transported to somewhere else, comeplete with smells and taste: it reminded me of what I love about books – you get so emersed in another world that it’s often a surprise to look up and realise that you are still in your front room.

Now on to what didn’t work for me: I never felt like I got to know any of the characters well enough; there were too many and none of them felt fully fleshed out to me. The books blurb has us believe that there is some epic battle of wits and skill between the two young aprentices, Celia and Marco who are pitted against each other in a battle to the end, despite them falling in love. I never bought their relationship at all – it came out of nowhere and it would be months, even years, between them seeing each other for only a few hours. Where was the passion or the tenderness or the longing to be together? It was the most understated relationship I have ever read about. Also, this epic battle that is eluded to in the blurb is hardly that – infact it takes about 20 years; the pacing was way off to make it in any way exciting or intriguing.

Verdict: For me, this was definitely a case of style over execution. The plot felt weak. The visuals were good but the plot was more of a whimper than a bang and I found myself rushing it in the hope of getting to the end and being rewarded which I never felt I was. It’s a shame – I wanted to love it but I really didn’t.


  Have you read this book? Most people seem to have loved it – did you?


This is the second book I have read for the Victorians Challenge and the first neo-victorian book


29 thoughts on “The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  1. I loved this book. I think I agree with some/most of what you say, but I still loved the book.
    I never got to know the characters very well, the plot wasn’t strong… so what? 🙂

    I know, it’s a personal thing. The magic and the setting were strong enough for me to enjoy this book very much.


  2. I felt much the same as you about the strengths and weaknesses of this book. Some can be swept away by magic and style more than others, and beyond that I think it very much depends on what you’re looking for. And what you’ve read before maybe.


  3. I loved it to bits! (I kept hugging it, which is a sure sign that I love a book when I do that!) I would have liked more descriptions of some of those magical tents but there was enough detail in there to keep me interested by them. The plot was engaging enough but a very familiar one but obviously set in a fairly unique time and place.


  4. Completely changing the subject but as I was typing the above post, I could see David Copperfield out of the corner of my eye… have you started reading it yet? how is it? I know nothing about this book so am pretty intrigued. I have The Old Curiosity Shop on my TBR and I’m fairly daunted by it if I’m honest, even though I loved Great Expectations and Oliver Twist when I read them years ago.


      • Yeah, I could do that but I won’t be able to start reading it just yet as it’ll be at my Mum’s house in the UK but I’ll ask her to mail it out to me this week… Yay! A reading buddy 🙂


      • Okay, decided not to wait for my Mum to send my paperback copy and downloaded if – for free! – onto Charlotte (Kindle) instead. I’m 25%in so not sure how many pages that equates to… Where you up to? Did you want to start a separate post for Dickens comments??


  5. have been avoiding this because other reviews have agreed with you. Quite often popular books like this with loads of hype dont actually have huge substance but are highly entertaining and I end up always feeling disappointed (like The Passage for example)


  6. Oh good! You felt the same as so many of us! We read it for our online book club and it was a flop for all of us. Every single one of us was deeply disappointed that there was “no ending” – this duel to the death never happened…true, her descriptions were Gorgeous (I loved the clock!) but it suffered from too much hype and was an underwhelming read. I’ve since read another book that was all hyped to the stars and meh, not so great either and like you will start giving wide berth to excessively hyped novels for the time being…


  7. Pingback: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern « The Sleepless Reader

  8. I had The Night Circus on hold at the library but got so tired of the hype I cancelled it. There are enough reviews like yours to make me think I won’t bother reading it any time soon.


  9. Just posted about this one today and a lot of our impressions are similar. Also loved the bottled memories tent. Also felt the characters, especially the secondary ones, are very 2-dimensional. Completely agree on the lack of the epic battle. There is almost no tension except in the end.


  10. It’s a marmite book, you’ll love it or hate it. I am most definitely in the loved-it camp but then it’s my kind of book. I like the way Morgenstern took risks – using present tense wasn’t going to gain many fans, neither was the meandering narrative nor the lack of action. Perhaps it’s better to create something which merits a reaction of some kind rather than a “meh” book which leaves you cold?? 😉


  11. I agree 100% with your review. I really don’t get all the hype. I didn’t hate the book – but I wasn’t swept away by it either. I probably started to like the book less and less after I started hearing people rave about it.


  12. Boof, you took the words right out of my mouth! I felt exactly the same way! Lovely setting and atmosphere, flat characters and uninspiring plot. I thin Morgenstern has great potenial, however, and I look forward to her next book.


  13. I haven’t read this one. I’d like to but the fact that “everyone” has loved it kind of turns me off. I’m afraid I’ll expect too much. Thanks for the honest review


  14. Oh, I bought this book just because it sounded absolutely fantastic. Sorry to hear you found it underwhelming – I’m going to read it sometime soon – hopefully. And hopefully – I’ll have a better experience than you! Fingers crossed 🙂

    PS : I’m not really counting on it.


  15. Pingback: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern « JoV's Book Pyramid

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