- I'm not a fan of the circus. Clowns? Side shows? Scary. A pretty circus? It's just hiding the scary.
- Fantasy settings & suspension of disbelief? Difficult for me. They aren't even pretending to be real, so why should I care?
- Atmospheric and descriptive are all well and good...if it's a sideline to a rocking plot or amazing character development. Otherwise? Yawn.
- And Now We Must Speak of HYPE. Typically, I turn away from things that are All The Rage (be it a book or something else entirely) but I knew I'd be reading this sooner or later when I found out that it was an Indiespensable selection. Then this massively publicized book made the Indie Lit Awards short list (along with four minimally hyped books) and I can tell you that it made for an interesting comparison. The hype ended up affecting me much less than my other reservations. Contrary to my seemingly negative observations, I actually enjoyed this book - certainly more than I thought I would.
You all know the premise (or you won't have to look far to find it) so the question is What Did I Think?
Right off the bat it was apparent that there had been more money put into the production of this book. The book itself was gorgeous, with the magical black and white theme carried throughout the design of the pages. My copy had a black velvet[ish] slipcase, which further enhanced the richness of the production. This sense went farther than the art design and typesetting - when compared to the other books on the short list, the writing glowed with the polished shine that evokes hard work and a dedicated editing process rather than raw talent.
Don't get me wrong - the descriptions are beautiful. Morgenstern has an imagination, no doubt about it, but that really is where her talent lies. There wasn't enough plot to keep me invested, and the main characters don't have a lot of depth. There came a point in the book where I almost wanted to skip over the descriptions because I wanted to get on to something meatier.
In the end, when comparing it to the other short list books, this book fell in the middle for me. It was more polished and enjoyable than Cross Currents and The Last Time I Saw Paris (reviewed here) but lacking the depth in characters and themes that Silver Sparrow and Dance Lessons had. I'd recommend The Night Circus to readers attracted to the magical circus setting as well as those in the mood to get their imaginations spinning.
The ground beneath her feet shifts, suddenly unsteady, but Marco puts a hand on her waist to keep her upright.The world of The Night Circus remains mysterious and magical from the beginning of the book to the end. It isn't a world with well-defined rules. Like the characters, we never find out exactly how things work or why. This ties in with the high level of imagination and creativity, but made for a somewhat detached reading experience. It is a showcase of creativity: magical, mysterious, elusive, atmospheric.
When she opens her eyes, they are standing on the quarterdeck of a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink.
(By the way...I don't recommend reading this book on an e-reader, simply because I had to look back at previous chapter headings all the time - what a pain on an e-reader! The reason it was necessary to flip around was the chapter heading details, which indicate time and location. Especially in the beginning, when I was still trying to figure out who everyone was and where/when they were, it was frustrating. This book convinced me that any information at the beginning of a chapter should enhance the text, not take the place of it.)