Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (With Bookalicious Pam)

Hello, Readers!

This is a week of firsts for me!  Yesterday, I posted my very first video-blog, and today I am posting my very first joint review!  Bookalicious Pam and I decided that, since The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was getting so much hype, we would read it together and review it under the same format, to compare notes as it were.  Enjoy!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Roof Beam Reader’s Final Verdict: 4.0 out of 4.0

Bookalicious Pam’s Final Verdict: 4.0 out of 4.0


RBR’s Thoughts:

4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful (socially, academically, etc.)

Welcome to Le Cirque du Rêves!  The sun has set, which means the doors are just opening.  Catch it while you can – it’s back in town, but not for long.  Be sure to visit the Ice Garden and the Wishing Tree… and don’t miss out on the Pool of Tears.  Grab a caramel apple, something hot to drink, and wander through the aisles of black and white.  If you have questions while you’re here, feel free to seek out someone wearing just a splash of red – they’re the experts, after all.  Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair, magicians trained since birth, are bound by their masters’ unbreakable spell, to compete against each other, exhaustively and eternally, until one magician wins.  But what determines a winner?  In whose hands does the final verdict rest? And what will it cost the victor to win?  Morgenstern’s darkly-whimsical drama is an intricate play – the reader is strung along, a viewer to the events unfolding.  There are brief moments when the reader is invited in, allowed to be a part of the action, but one soon learns that The Night Circus is largely a private event, where spectators are allowed, but never truly privy to all that is happening.  The Night Circus is Romeo and Juliet meets The Prestige – a delicately constructed, intricately designed, beautifully crafted love story, with a novel twist.

BP’s Thoughts:

4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful (socially, academically, etc.)

I was entranced by the first sentence of The Night Circus and every sentence after that. Rarely does a book hold so much magical fodder to keep me entertained long past the 200th page has passed. I am in awe of Morgenstern’s writing chops and the fact that she flashed these chops so brilliantly in a debut Novel.  Normally I am wont to breeze through a novel and swiftly move on to the next, however, The Night Circus is like an expensive woody Cabernet to be savored slowly and in small doses. It’s not easy to make a magical world wholly believable and Morgenstern did just that. 


RBR’s Thoughts:

4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

Characterization and character development were almost the sole point of contention for me.  There are certainly a wide assortment of characters, from the dark, dangerous, and seemingly cold-hearted mentors, to the naïve farm boy, a gentle soul who is sucked into the magic of the Circus, almost against his will (not that he isn’t willing, ultimately).  While the characters –be the major or minor, external to the Circus or crucial to it- are each of them interesting in their own way, filling a separate need in the plot and final climax/resolution, it is ultimately the subtle changes in certain characters, including Marco and Celia, their mentors, and some of the Circus folk, which demonstrates Morgenstern’s mastery of characterization.  It is further demonstrated, and perhaps most profoundly, in the realization that the Circus itself is a complicated character, the one which grows, develops, and changes the most throughout the story – and the one which is crucial to the existence of all the other characters.

BP’s Thoughts:

4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

The Night Circus has a brilliant cast of characters. Moving beyond your main protagonist there is a whole circus to explore full of everything and everyone you believe would be haunting and working at a circus that only opens at night. It is very comparable to that episode of Torchwood about the Night Circus. At times I was able to imagine Captain Jack running about in Morgenstern’s world. The whole characterization style was wholly refreshing.


RBR’s Thoughts:

4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

The Night Circus is narrated in the third-person present for the majority of the story, aside from brief second-person interludes, where the reader is specifically directed to certain aspects of the Circus.  It is also constructed as a series of episodes, interspersed through time and space: one moment, the reader is watching events unfold in 1890s London, and in the next moment the story is developing in Boston, twenty years later.  The construction is interesting in that it almost forces the reader to slow-down and savor the story; if you read too quickly, it will be easy to get lost in the timeline.  Though I am not typically a fan of non-linear plots, Morgenstern’s layout is somehow appropriate, largely because it is 1) written so well and 2) an interesting addition to the already surreal story, mirroring the intrigue and mystery of the Circus.  Similarly to the unique structure and style of the book (which includes, I should add, a gorgeously crafted book, from cover-to-cover – you can feel the quality of this book under your fingertips), the prose is also demonstrative of high-art writing and ability.  This type of prose, so meticulously wrought, is lacking in today’s fiction, aside from a few literary writers.  Though the chapters are short, the words are so intense and the style so powerful that it makes each episode in the story impossible to skip.     

BP’s Thoughts:

4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

The style of the book was candy but the really rich darkest chocolate. It had sustenance with indulgence that never overwhelmed the reader. The editing was top notch and reflected the author’s darker subplot fantastically. Honestly I really don’t have much to say here except that this section was perfection on a stick.

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.

RBR’s Thoughts:

4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

What really brings this altogether and makes The Night Circus not just an interesting, dramatic, magical-romance is the world Morgenstern creates both in the book and external to it.  The Night Circus has its own interactive website, where fans can continue to participate and even interact with some of the “cast.”  The proprietor of the Circus even leaves the reader his business card, with e-mail address, so that anyone can send a message (and actually get a response – try it!).  This world-building, coupled with the gorgeously designed physical book (the paper quality is superb, the book boards themselves, outside and inside are beautiful, the jacket art is lovely, the constellation section-breaks and font/type are beautiful, etc. etc.) make this a book one will not just enjoy reading, but will be proud of owning.  There is something very old-fashioned, almost ancient, about this story – though it takes place just 100-years ago.  It’s as if Morgenstern channeled the history of magic, from the Merlin myth through the Salem-age, and wrapped it up tight in this one book, for all to taste.  Some reviewers have been put off by the “diversions” in the book, which distract readers from a supposedly predictable plot, but in my opinion, these diversions complement the Circus.  At the Circus, visitors are allowed glimpses of different acts and events, depending on which tents they visit.  Because the Circus is so big, and always changing, no one person has ever seen every tent, every act.  Morgenstern allows us to see as much as we can see, to get glimpses of the characters in different times and locations, which affords readers the opportunity to come to the Circus on their own and to like whichever aspect of it is most appealing to them.  Some will fall in love with the romance, others with the magic.  Some will be charmed by the clockmaker, others by the fortune-teller.  Readers might adore the Circus twins, who are born in the Circus and grow along with it, while others might find the competition itself, the power and history of it, most intriguing.  The point is, readers get to see all of it – brief glimpses which create the whole story.  Think of it as a mosaic, where up close any one image out of hundreds can be seen, but when you stand back and look at the images from afar, the true portrait appears.    

BP’s Thoughts:

4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

Hello, it’s a circus, and who doesn’t love a circus? Well to be honest the only circus I will visit is an imaginary one. I have all of these thoughts and feelings about animal treatment and real circuses don’t work out for me on the whole so it was wonderful to learn about circus worlds/terms/ideals via this book. I found myself enamored by the setting which was just as much a protagonist than the characters. 

RBR’s Suggested Reading for:

Age Level: Adult

Interest: Fantasy, Romance, Whimsy, Competition, Family, Magical Realism

BP’s Suggested Reading for:

Upper YA, College Students and fans of dark literary motif. 

19 Comments on “Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (With Bookalicious Pam)

  1. What a truly excellently written review. This book is definitely the next one I buy. Thanks for sealing the deal with such a great review. 🙂


    • Thanks, Kevin! I was truly impressed by this book – I find that books rarely live up to their hype, but this one certainly exceeded my expectations. I wanted to be sure to do the review justice (without giving away or spoiling anything).


  2. It’s nice to see two reviews together! It’s almost a pity you agreed so much. 🙂

    Sounds like a great book – I hope to read it soon.


    • Haha – I know! I was hoping to hate this book, to be honest, just to add some “reality” to all the hype, but it was really just that good! I think the only area where I found some small issues was Characterization, but when I think of this book as more of a drama/play, which I think is appropriate, then the issue disappears..


      • I think the most impressive thing about it is the writing – the language, style, and prose. It is so well-crafted and literary… I wasn’t expecting that, particularly from a “fantasy” novel.


  3. I love the double format! I particularly enjoyed Pam’s comparison of the book to a rich wine – I felt like that too (except, with something else rich, since I don’t drink wine, heheh). I read it slowly, 20 pages here and there, and allowed it to sink in slowly, and then afterwards didn’t pick up another book for a week. It was beautiful.

    I’m actually a huge fan of non-linear plots and wish I could do them better in my own writing! This book was inspirational for me.


    • I’m a new/novice wine drinker, so I did appreciate that – but I enjoyed the dark chocolate reference even more! I have a piece of dark chocolate every day. Haha I can see how this book would be inspiration to writers, both from a creative perspective and also construction/writing perspectives. I was very impressed with the quality of writing – you don’t see such literary prose too often these days.


    • LOL – Wine and dark chocolate sounds great. Couldn’t enjoy either yesterday, but it’s Friday now …guess what’s on the menu tonight!?


  4. Nice, I’m glad to hear you both enjoyed it. I currently have a copy sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to finish my current selection. Thanks for detailed but spoiler-free review. I’m even more excited to read it now!

    Working for the Mandroid


    • Great! It was very difficult to write this without spoilers, because there are so many interesting things to talk about. But I hate when books are ruined for me, obviously, so I tried to make it work.


  5. I’m reading this right now! It’s the first time I ever bought a book because of ‘the hype’…I was very intrigued to see how good it actually was, and the premise of the novel did interest me. Plus, I read that it originally started out as a NaNoWriMo novel, so that’s very cool for me.

    I’m glad you mentioned the website, I hadn’t heard about yet so I will definitely check it out once I’m finished reading this 🙂


  6. I too wanted to not like this book, because I quickly became tired of all the comparisons to another series. Yet, I couldn’t escape it’s pull, and was quite enchanted with it. Reading this review makes me want to buy the hardcopy of this book, since I listened to it in audio. I really enjoyed the description of the physical sensation of reading the book in this review. And, you two make a darn good team.


  7. Really fantastic review! I agree with BP “The Night Circus is like an expensive woody Cabernet to be savored slowly and in small doses.” I read this book very slowly, in small doses, so as not to miss a single detail.


  8. Hm, I was rather annoyed by all the hype this book is receiving and wasn’t planning on reading it, but your review might have changed my mind.


  9. Pingback: Book: The Night Circus «

  10. Pingback: A novel twist | Night Circus Reviews

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