Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Night Circus Review

Book talk: Celia is a magician in a circus. But the Night Circus is no ordinary circus and Celia is no ordinary magician.  Unlike many stage conjurers who rely on tricks and manipulation, Celia really can perform magic.  She can turn origami birds into real ones, change the cut and color of a dress without touching it, and put broken things back together from a clock to her own body.  But she's not the only true magician who has an influence upon the circus.  Ever since she was a child she has trained for a challenge that would test everything she had ever learned and her opponent has been training as well.  The circus is their battlefield and the war rages on for years.  But in the end, one must win.

Rocks my socks: The world of the Night Circus is just as enthralling for readers as it is for those who visit it in the book.  The tents hold wonderfully creative magical attractions that range far beyond any real or imaginary circus I have ever read about.  Morgenstern describes them in beautiful language and with a complete range of sensory detail creating a world that is a pleasure to luxuriate in.  The novel, much like a circus, has an ensemble cast with many unique and interesting characters.  While Celia isn't the strongest female character I've read she's still pretty tough--she even stabs a dagger through her own hand at one point and magician or not that's got to hurt.  Plus I love the idea of her magical ability to alter dresses--when people ask me what superpower I'd want that's my new answer.  Extra points for the scene where Marco creates trees out of poetry.  Despite his faults that would be enough to woo me!

Rocks in my socks: The chronology of the novel threw me off at first with the entire thing told in present tense and three distinct  time lines that took me a bit to pull out (my tendency to skip over chapter titles when I'm engaged in a story probably didn't help with this as the dates are at the beginning of each chapter.)  There's one storyline following Celia and Marco as they grow up and the circus is formed, one that follows a boy, Bailey who visits the circus, and one told in second person and set in the present day.  It took me a while to figure out how they all fit together and while I liked the descriptions of the circus in the second person account I'm not a huge fan of second person narration in general.  Too often when it said 'you' do such and such I thought no I really wouldn't and it took me out of the story.  The ending bugged me in particular when it said that 'you' are given a card with an e-mail address on it.  Really?  Was that entirely necessary? Morgenstern also had a character sit down to tell the story at the end and start off with the first sentence of the book, implying that the whole thing was the story this character was telling.  It seemed like a cheap, cliched way to end a book that was otherwise so wonderfully unique.  (Highlight for spoiler) It is also the second book I've read recently where a boy and girl who are competing fall in love and both manage to win in a sense in the end.  Sometimes life requires hard choices and sometimes people lose and I want stories that acknowledge that fact instead of whipping out last minute deus ex machinas darnit!

Every book its reader: The language and concepts of the novel as well as the non-linear narrative would make it difficult for most kids younger than seventh or eighth grade to follow and even then only if they're strong readers.  There's also a sex scene, although it's far from graphic, and occasional swearing.  It was really written as an adult fiction novel, but mature teens who are strong readers would enjoy it as well.  I'd give it to fans of fantasy and circuses who enjoy rich world-building.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Buy it or check it out today!

Bonus quotes:
"The Burgess sisters arrive together.  Tara and Lainie do a little bit of everything.  Sometimes dancers, sometimes actresses.  Once they were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated."

"Stories have changed, my dear boy...There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue.  Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case."

"Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl.  And is not the dragon the hero of his own story?  Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act?  Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey."

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