Check the Shelf Book Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Publisher/Year: Doubleday | September 13, 2011

Pages: 387

Audiobook Publisher/Year: Random House Audio | September 13, 2011

Read By: Jim Dale

Time: 13 hours and 39 minutes

Series: Stand-Alone

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Source: Own through Audible 

Amazon | Goodreads

Shannan’s Summary

 Celia is dropped off on her dad’s doorstep after her mother dies.  Her father had no interest in children until he discovers his Daughter has the same magical abilities as he does.  And so he calls up an old colleague and proposes a wager that his daughter can beat any student of his.  And thus Celia is placed on a path of unknown certainty.  The testing place is eventually set to be a Circus, that is only open at night with it’s black and white tents and unique cast of characters, The Night Circus has magic far greater than any visitor can guess.

First Off…

I bought this way back when if first came out on Audible.  I think it was before they had an app, which made listening more complicated and I just never went through the effort to listen to it.  I was reminded of it while listening to the Book Riot podcasts because I think everyone went on a Night Circus kick for a while, so I downloaded it to my phone and finally listened.

The Story:

Magic at the Circus, what doesn’t sound awesome about that?  This story is just such a breath of fresh air.  It’s so different from other books I’ve been reading.  The best way to describe this book is it’s like the first time you get to go to Disney or the wizarding world and all you want to do is soak in the details of finally visiting the world you’ve only heard about.  This book lets’s you sit in all the fun details of a well-built world.  But even with all the details of the world, you’re still pulled along the story that Morgenstern has built.  Usually, I can’t stand books that have as much description as this one, but Morgenstern does a great job sucking you in.  I think the 2nd person interludes that she weaves in help with that.  You’re able to feel a part of the world as she’s describing it to you.

It’s a quirky band of characters that she parades before you with all of their stories. They are intricately tied together in a huge knot that you try to figure out before the ending.  The Twins are some of my favorite characters, especially with their tie to the circus.  But really, all the characters are great all you have are the feels for everything happening to them which makes you just want to skip to the end and cheat to find out.  I had a love-hate relationship with this book in a good way because I was so invested into what was happening.

I did like that there wasn’t any love triangle going on.  The romance that did exist, while necessary, didn’t seem over the top.  It had a depth to it that was more than surface level.  In other words, no insta-love.

The Writing

The world building is fantastic.  The black and white circus is balanced between intricate detail and vague mystery.  For example, she gives you every understanding of a clock that sits above the entrance. But yet, there is never a clear understanding of how many tents there are or how big the circus is. That leaves it feeling like the fluffy edges of a dream; you can remember the big pieces but aren’t sure where it begins, ends, or how pieces are even possible, you just accept it as truth.

This novel switches between 2nd and 3rd person POV.  It’s a great method that I don’t know if I’ve seen done in any other book, or at least not well enough for me to remember.  This technique helps Morgenstern build out her world in a way that isn’t repetitive to what the reader has already experienced, and also makes them feel involved first hand in what is happening.

The complexity of the story lines is something worth noting as well.  If you’re struggling with how to develop your story and characters, this is a great one to analyze.  Morgenstern develops a wide cast of characters and tangles their stories together in an elegant, if not sometimes frustrating, way.  It almost reads as though you’re a fly on the wall, watching one person and then following another out of the room to the other scene or leaving one conversation to find a better one.

And finally, the ending!  I won’t say any details because it would ruin the greatness of how she ends the book.  It’s my favorite way, and if you’ve read this book, please let me know of any other books out there with this style of ending.

The Voice:

Dale is, as always, a fantastic reader.  The fact he was the reader was the whole reason I got it from Audible.  While I love him reading this book, I think I would have rather read this book myself the first time through. He has a slower pacing and there were times I just wanted him to go faster so I could know what was happening.  The second time through the book I think I’ll be able to enjoy it more.  I’ll just get to enjoy the details of the story.  And, while it’s marketed as an adult book, it’s one that the whole family could easily listen to and all enjoy.

In the End

This is a great story and a well-performed Audiobook.  You really can’t go wrong, no matter which way you absorb it. 

10 Second Summary:

  1. Great world: So much imagery.  This would be a great circ-du-soleil show.
  2. Intricate Storyline: There is so much happening in this book, I don’t know how Morgenstern kept it all straight while she was writing.
  3. Great Characters: I would live at this circus if I could with all of the people.  You feel like friends by the end.

Check the Shelf Review

Hardback.  Can’t wait to add this gorgeous book, inside and out, to my shelf.


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