Thursday, July 05, 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Release date: July 3, 2012 (Paperback)
by Anchor Canada

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
*A copy was provided by Random House Canada for review purposes*

The Night Circus is like cake. Cake without frosting. Sure, cake is good, some people will even prefer dry, plain cake all by itself, but others, such as myself, need the sugary sweetness of frosting. Some may prefer the milder whip frosting. Or maybe even caramel or candy to put the final touches on our taste buds. Either way, plain cake, no matter how moist, is not for everyone.

Yes, the writing is beautiful. Beyond beautiful. It's magnificent and breathtaking; the detailed scenery, the magic, the multitude of formidable descriptions of each tent inside this circus is all absolutely stunning. Furthermore, the approach taken to tell the story is excellent. We've got the journey in past and present, walking alongside the characters their whole lives, in addition, we get our very own walk inside this resplendent circus which adds a truly delightful touch to the story. Unfortunately, this is the only aspect of the book I enjoyed: The writing.

While I appreciate more literary books, -- a lot of my favorites are slow paced, extremely well-read books that managed to not only tell me a story, but actually make me live it -- The Night Circus' strongly lethargic plot fails to let it radiate life within its beauty. Filling a book with pizzazz is simply not enough for me. I need a compelling storyline, I need fabulous characters. This is where I was left highly underwhelmed. The "competition" we constantly hear of is kept very vague, not really letting us in which only left me confused as to the point of the plot, not to mention let down by the absence of its "fierceness" that the blurb promises. Knowing that sometimes all I need is a little patience to eventually get blown away, I kept my hopes up and didn't give up. I was slightly more satisfied at the end, very slightly, though I was expecting much more out of this highly praised novel. If you want to read a book to simply enjoy its outward extravagance, I can see you loving it. However, expect over 500 pages of nothing more.

Strong characters can make a world of difference in books such as this. Characters I would have grown to love, to adore. Characters that would have made an impression on me emotionally. A deep investment in such characters could have made this an instant favorite. Instead what I got were colorless characters with weak personalities that I could not have been less concerned about. Maybe I was distracted by the glamor (catch-22?), maybe it was all the back and forth; whatever the reason, these characters remained characters to me. I never got to know them. I never got to feel their presence, their soul, inside this tale. Where it should have been filled with passion and devotion, sometimes misery, this was only communicated with sentences, not with the actual emotions I was expected to garner. The only character I was mildly interested in was Bailey and his parts, though not insignificant, are far and few.

Your enjoyment of this book will seriously depend on what you're looking for. It's an exquisitely well-written book full of riches and gorgeous descriptions. If this is enough to lure you in and enchant you - I assure you you will be blown away. If an engaging plot and great characterization are also essential for you to have a great reading experience, you won't find it here. Ultimately, you'll either love it, or you won't.

Me, I need my frosting.

2 Espressos
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