The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Erin Morgenstern

Shamari Bowie, Staff Writer

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

There’s certainly a stigma surrounding both fantasy and romance novels. Most people feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all since there are millions of versions of the same story and most books written in these genres are prone to slipping into cliches. With this thought in mind it’s safe to assume that a book encompassing both genres would be a train wreck of cliches and not worth wasting $16 on, right? Well, despite the curse surrounding novels in its genre The Night Circus gives a new and refreshing spin on it. The quote above is a mere snippet from the beginning of the masterpiece Erin Morgenstern was able to put together.

The novel takes place in an ahistorical Victorian London, though the setting does vary depending on the chapter, all throughout the 1800’s. The first major character we’re introduced to is Celia Bowen, Daughter of Prospero the enchanter. Prospero is a magician for Le Cirque des Rêves ( the circus of dreams ) and is key to the plots direction. Celia didn’t always live with her father, in fact her mother left her on Prospero’s door step one day with a note attached to her coat and, due to the uncanny resemblance, he had no choice but to take her in. The first major turn that sets the foundation is after Prospero gauges how much potential Celia’s kinetic abilities have and, after seeing he has a good chance of winning, resurrects an old competition he had with his friend A.H. The rules of the game aren’t clear until later in the novel and no one other than the two leaders, not even the participants, know what they are. It’s a mysterious game that no one knows how to play but two people are bound to it with no say.

The second major character is Marco Alisdair. Marco was an orphan before A.H adopted him but only for the sheer purpose of having him compete in this mysterious competition. After his adoption Marco would see A.H in person on rare occasions, most days he would be cooped up in his room with nothing but books. From these books Marco learned magic and eventually A.H buys him an apartment and lets him roam freely. It’s during one of his walks through town that he meets a young girl named Isobel and she becomes a supporting factor in the story as well.

Though the plot seems mild and somewhat banal, the gritty details surely makeup for it. Both children are subjected to cruel training— mainly Celia since her father took to harsher methods in order to train her mental capability as well. He snapped a dove’s neck in front of her and even sliced her fingertips open so she could learn how to repair human flesh. This training seems unnecessary and cruel but, after revealing what the true contest is, it seems like there was a method to his madness. The competition was at a stand still for a while and everything was peaceful until strange events started occurring around the circuses which led to a few fatalities. After the deaths Marco and Celia decided it was time to end the competition for good.

Firstly, the imagery in the novel is fantastic. The whole point of Le Cirque des Rêves is to make you feel as though you’re in another world, like you’re dreaming, and Morgenstern’s words do exactly that. You’re able to feel all the emotions and she sets the scenery to a point where it’s almost impossible for you not to imagine it. The plot is unique and captivating, it keeps you wondering what could possibly happen next. Despite being labeled a romance novel, it’s mostly centered around fantasy which is something I personally liked.

The book has great aspects but, as with all novels, there were things I didn’t enjoy. Admittedly, I felt like the pacing was a little slow and some scene seemed dragged out. There were a few times where I skipped a few paragraphs because they felt tedious, however, I do believe she did a great job at building the suspense which made the climaxes even more enjoyable.

All in all, it’s a great book anyone can enjoy reading. I don’t believe this is targeted at one specific audience and, if it is, others outside of it can easily enjoy the novel too. I’d recommend this novel to anyone searching for something unique or just enjoys descriptive literature.