Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Published: September 13th 2011 by Doubleday
Format/Source: Audio CDs from the libraryThe Night Circus
Genre: Magical Realism


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.


The story begins vague. An illusionist who has to pretend that his tricks are faked is left with a daughter in his custody. A man with no real name talks to the illusionist, binding the daughter into a competition that has happened before. And so the wheel has begun to spin, sending the characters down a strange path of magic, love, and intrigue.

The story alternates between Bennett in 1902, living in the U.S. and seemingly having a normal childhood, Celia and Marco, the two competitors in the late 1800s, and a ‘you’…you who is experiencing the circus and stumbling across its innumerable attractions. I had a hard time keeping up with these changes while listening to the story in the beginning. Things were just so disjointed and vague that I had a hard time understanding where each piece was going to fit together. I actually had to read a summary of the plot to get a better idea of what was going on.

After those initial road bumps, i could more easily follow and engage in the story. I wanted to know what would happen, and I found myself particularly enjoying the Celia and Marco storyline above any of the other chapters. I liked that it seemed like it were those chapters that propelled the story closer to being more clear.

Sometimes, it felt like the story was trying too hard to fit with the aesthetic of a cool, mysterious and dream-like circus. It is what the book is about sure, but there were times when I felt like it was becoming too artificial and removed from the reality of the story. In that same regard, there are a lot of unanswered questions and ways for the events to be interpreted because of some of the vagueness in the language.

I did enjoy the story nonetheless. I felt satisfied with the ending. And as always, wish that such a circus really did exist.

My rating: 4/5

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