Natalie Plahuta’s Review of The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a beautiful book full of delightful, whimsical imagery that will transport readers and listeners to another world, rich with magic. The descriptions of the smells of circus foods or Marco’s cologne, the appearances of the different circus tents or of Marco’s illusions, the sounds of children laughing or of bystanders screaming during Herr Friedrick Thiessen’s murder, the tastes of chocolate mice and other circus treats, and the feel of Marco and Celia when they touch each other all enhance The Night Circus into something almost tangible. Due to the acuity of the imagery, readers and listeners can imagine standing in every circus tent or attending Chandresh’s parties. This experience is especially augmented during the second person perspective passages. Listening to the audiobook version of The Night Circus may be more accommodating for readers who want to place themselves in the story’s various settings, as they can close their eyes and imagine every image, sound, smell, taste, and texture as the narrator describes each scene. Jim Dale does a spectacular job of narrating the novel, using different voices for each character and developing their individual personalities.

The plot of The Night Circus is decent enough as well, though it does occasionally fall flat. A competition between two magicians who must top each other’s illusions is intriguing, but the intrigue is subverted by the rule that the two may not sabotage each other, turning what could have been a heated duel into the most passive competition ever. The readers and listeners also learn very little about the two magicians who instigated the competition, Hector and Alexander. Although this lack of information successfully contributes to their mysterious characterizations, their deeper motives for initiating the competition and betting with children’s lives are not shared, thereby preventing the competition from holding a deeper meaning or impact with the readers and listeners. However, the contrast between the two styles of magic portrayed in the novel is well done. Celia is a physical manipulator, and she has a much more chaotic style than Marco. Meanwhile, Marco manipulates the minds of those around him, having a much more reserved and covert style of magic. The contrasts of these two styles complement each other, which may be why Celia and Marco become attracted to each other, as well as why the two have so much trouble ending each other.

Another part of The Night Circus that falls flat is the romance, which is unfortunately a major focus of the novel. Celia and Marco barely speak to each other before they develop feelings for each other, making the romance seem phony and ungrounded. However, the lack of development in the romance department can partially be forgiven if the readers and listeners buy into the insinuated soul mate dynamic. Celia and Marco are bound to their magical game by rings, and are therefore bound to each other. It is almost as if they are married from the very beginning, the rings becoming a symbol of their love, as well as a symbol of the competition. Celia even glances at the scar her ring left when she turns down a proposal, saying that she is already married. Tsukiko is also said to have fallen in love with her opponent, making love seem like a side effect of the game. Therefore, although the love is somewhat baseless, Morgenstern comes up with an excuse by making those destined to destroy each other destined to fall in love.

The Night Circus is a good book, not a great book, but readers should certainly give it a try, if for no other reason than to experience the imagery which Morgenstern has so gracefully explicated. If readers and listeners want a book that will take them to places they never imagined, this is the book for them. If readers and listeners want to experience the beautiful, this book will not disappoint. With a decent plot and exemplary imagery, The Night Circus is a delight, potent in its ability to distract readers and listeners from the real world.