The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
★★★★ — 90%
Because nothing can ever live up to this, THAT’S WHY. I did probably the absolute worst thing I could ever do besides smash an antique vase (or stab someone HI the butler did it, I’m innocent) and decided to read Caraval right after I finished The Night Circus. #REGRET. It’s cruel on Caraval and it’s cruel on me.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.
The circus arrives without warning, but so do the FEELS. I’ve warned you now so don’t run to me later. I’ll just laugh and then hysterically cry YES this is what books do to people. The Night Circus and its feel-murdering self kept me prisoner for about a week (it was a great stay, don’t worry—I had a pillow and hot chocolate and it was cozy) and the characters took knives to my heart sometimes. Hahaha what is life.
BUT THE PACE. IT WAS SLOW. Excruciatingly slow. Like this.
AHEM yes, this is Plot. Pace, do you copy? Over. PACE? PACE ARE YOU THERE? [explosions] Oh, yes, Pace is dead. I forgot. Training accidents. They happen sometimes. (General PSA: There’s an element of “Grand Challenge™” to this story, but don’t be hoodwinked. The fact that Pace is dead is more real than any form of action here, which sounds BRUTAL, but we’re all cool.) Anyway, all this means is that if you find yourself flying through the first half and wondering what on earth was Marie talking about??? She’s so full of crap, IT’S FINE and then hit the second half and repent (because your thoughts were RUDE, let’s just be clear), you’re human and you don’t need to worry about your mental health. The book is just stretched too thin and so is my sanity.
The world-building, though, was amazing and made me want to bake cookies to CELEBRATE. This was the most magical, captivating, sinister world I’ve ever entered, and I WANT TO GO BACK. Erin Morgenstern is a master storyteller, no doubt, and I’m jealous. But I’m supportive so I’m not going to say it out loud or anything. Just! The world! AESTHETIC BLACK AND WHITE STRIPED TENTS!!! BLACK AND WHITE EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE!! I’m still waiting to move there, but when I do, I’ll let you know.
Oh, and the story structure was freaking confusing. Linear? Parallel? Too mainstream. Let’s find this weird twisty-timeline thing so no one will have a clue about ANYTHING THAT’S GOING ON!! What a stroke of genius and a malicious agent of confusion. Someone help me. The characters were amazing though, and their romances almost were??? They were so close to the mark but didn’t quite make it. I couldn’t root for the main romance because it felt too drastic and too much like insta-love BUT maybe I was just mad at the author for messing with me for about 200 pages and if your brain is crying like mine is right now, YOU’LL UNDERSTAND LATER. (Maybe one day I’ll start writing in proper sentences, too. HA SIKE.)
I expected a lot from The Night Circus, and for the most part, it delivered! HIP HIP HOORAY! But there were still parts that fell flat and I don’t want to ignore them. Butbutbut there was also the amazing writing and the incredible atmosphere and the unforgettable whisper of the story and I don’t even know what my brain is doing right now asdfjksadlksdf I NEED SLEEP. 4.5/5 stars. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW, ANYWAY, RIGHT???
Here’s a quote because you made it to the end and because I did, too:
“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what else they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
- One use of the f-word (HOW DARE YOU, F-WORD-SPEAKING CHARACTER!!! THERE ARE CHILDREN HERE! Jk the children ran away an hour ago) and a few uses of d–n and h–l.
- A woman steps in front of a train (I think you know what happens) and a man is accidentally stabbed (“accidentally” ok sure) and killed, though the events are not depicted in detail. A girl’s father forces her to train by injuring herself (good to see you there, pain) to practice healing herself.
- Two characters kiss lightly and eventually become lovers (no smooth transition here HEH), but the scene cuts fairly quickly and doesn’t linger.
- Of-age characters drink wine and champagne on multiple occasions because they are very basic celebrators. A peripheral character is often drunk and we don’t follow his example.