Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: The Night Circus

I have a soft spot for circuses. I think it has something to do with my obsession with elephants. I also love magic. Witches are always my favorite characters and people who can do “magic” (like at parties) completely captivate me. This book, The Night Circus, immediately appealed to me. It’s about a circus AND magic. I recently got a new library card and my library has a shelf called “Best Bets” that are on-demand items and this book happened to be sitting there. I was wavering, because you only get best-bets for a week and this is a pretty thick book, but I went for it anyway… and I am so glad I did.

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
In short: …a lot of description, an ending you don’t expect and layers of meaning. I totally loved it!

The main characters in the book are Celia and Marco. The two have been chosen by their mentors to partake in some kind of long running game that is a bit of a mystery for at least the first half of the book. The game leads them to start making magical and amazing “things” (often tents at the circus) for one another. Eventually, much to the dismay of their mentors, they fall in love… and that becomes a bit of a problem for the lovers and their game.

I got completely lost in this book. I mean lost in the best possible way anyone could ever imagine it to mean. When I read this book I didn’t feel like I was reading. I felt like I was watching some kind of beautiful and shiny movie happening right in front of my eyes. I would get lost in it for hours and then restart the chapter just to see if I had missed any particular detail about the magic and events that happen throughout the story.

Erin describes everything so well you can literally smell the circus around you. I could visualize every single detail of each place that the book was set. But this could be the downfall for some people. You *have* to love description to love this book. I could read an entire book that just describes fantastic surroundings, and I’d be okay with that. She does not skimp out on a single detail… so if you’re the kind of person that tends to think “okay, move on…” then this may not be the book for you. She spends like…2 pages describing a clock (it’s a really awesome clock, but you get what I’m getting at here…)

The cover of the book is slightly misleading as it makes it seem like the competition between the two young magicians is like a big battle, but that’s not the case at all. They need to outdo one another’s fantastical displays of magic. You have to be a bit of a romantic to appreciate the feeling that they go for when they make something for one another. If you’re not the kind of person that can think of a cloud as a big puffy pillow…and instead all you can think of is the fact that it’s just a big pile of water all mushed together… then you’re not going to get into this. You have to allow your imagination to follow their love, to understand the connections between the people and the places and to just appreciate the power that the two of them hold and create…almost entirely because of the other’s existence and this weird “game”.

The circus setting is interesting, because it likely could have been done just as well as a different setting (maybe I’m wrong about that) but it just added an extra flare of wonder… I’ve always felt like there was something mysterious and awe-inspiring about the circus, so for me that really enhanced my experience with the book.

I also really like that the magicians have to make their magic believable to the rest of the world. The rest of the world isn’t aware that magic exists. So their magical displays have to somewhat tame. Again – some people like a story where magic gets to run wild. I liked that this did two things… 1. made it more realistic and tangible for those reading and 2. it wasn’t a Harry Potter “abracadabra” sort of thing. It was subtle magic. There is meaning in the magic they create, and it was cool to try and figure out what.

Now, as for the love story… This is the only place the book fell a little flat for me. It was cute that it was a bit of a play on star-crossed lovers but the overall romance just felt a little bit boring. It was supposed to be that sort of painful passionate love that you get when you first fall in love. But it read as being just sort of weird and boring. Maybe Erin Morgenstern has never experienced Earth shattering love… because she did not make their love seem special at all.

There is a lot to keep track of…a  lot of different stories and characters. Pay attention to the dates because the chronology is a bit screwy, but it’s important … but when you get to the end you’ll probably just want to read it again anyway… just to pick up on all the details and points you inevitably missed the first time you read it. I plan on reading it again someday soon.

I definitely give this book 5 out of 5. LOVED IT!

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

1 Comment

  1. December 19, 2012 at 9:39 pm —

    Nice review. I might be a bit old to be lurking round skepchick but I find it a more interesting sire than many skeptical sites. Would you see this is an ok book for my 12 year old duaghtre. To give you a sense she is a big Dr Who fan, loves skullduggery pleasent (a nasty series of books I think) and the hunger games books as well as terry pratchet’s mac nac feegle series.
    I probably only want to avoid very overt sexual encouters in her reading at this stage.

    Many thanks

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