Let’s Discuss — The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

At first, it is only a random pattern of lights. But as more of them ignite, it becomes clear that they are aligned in scripted letters, First a C is distinguishable, followed by more letters. A q, oddly, and several e’s. When the final bulb pops alight, and the smoke and sparks dissipate, it is finally legible, this elaborate incandescent sign. Leaning to your left to gain a better view, you can see that it reads: Le Cirque des Reves (5)

I’ve never been one to complain about description–sometimes I need it more than I need dialogue. The Night Circus is not short on description by any means. The book successfully recreates the ambiance of a circus; the mystique, awe and curiosity. So much so, that if you’re unable to visualize the circus after reading this, then you should just give up on imagery (and maybe the circus) altogether. I liked the idea of outsiders viewing this mysterious night circus as a wonderful place full of spectacle and illusion, and conversely, circus members sometimes viewing the circus as a cage. The descriptions and undertones in the beginning set the reader up for a great story, but it is never delivered.

“I’m not sure I understand the rules”, Marco says. “You don’t need to under stand the rules. You need to follow them. As I said your work has been sufficient” (115)

Morgenstern does a great job of setting up the place, but could have done a better job of expanding on the one thing that was supposed to move the plot along–the competition between magicians. What were the rules to this “competition”? If the two central characters, Marco and Celia, had a clearer idea of the endgame then maybe (and this is a big maybe) they would have been more dynamic. Everything about them was flat. Everything. The description on the back of my book says a “fierce competition is underway”–yeah, well you wouldn’t know from reading. It also says Marco and Celia fall into a “deep, magical love”…I beg to differ. Minor characters like Tsukiko, Isobel, Alexander and Prospero were much more interesting than Marco and Celia.

And so I return to my original qualm with this story: nothing really happened…There was no actual, well-explained conflict. For a while I accepted the ambiguous run-around because it was part of the intrigue. But I’m not that type of reader. I needed to know the origins of this competition and I needed there to be more action or at least more romance. I’m still trying to decide if the format* and all the jumping around contributed to the disconnect of the story. It’s quite possible.

Even though I enjoyed many of the descriptions, I still had a problem with the details. Not necessarily a problem with the abundance of detail, but the redundancy–the fluff**. Certain things were repeated over and over again, and I was just like I get it already! I’m not going to forget what color the tents are between pages 15 and 16. No need to mention it again on page 17.

Alas…I understand why so many people like The Night Circus. The descriptions (when not too fluffed up) are fascinating. It might be a cool place to visit–if it were real. The setting is the saving grace for the book***

* So many vignettes….so many….

** When it comes to fluff, I feel there is a difference between abundance and redundancy….am I right?

*** I’m being nice. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t eleven years old or younger…I mean even if you like magic, this book is not the book for you.