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 both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
When people ask if I liked this book, the only response I can give them is a shrug of the shoulders and an “eh”. Granted this is better than a glare at the mention of the name followed by an outpouring of hateful statements…but not much. In short, The Night Circus was utterly forgettable.
I found myself confused while I was reading this book for multiple reasons. The first being that I couldn’t help but think that this felt more like a young adult book. Maybe it was the cover, or maybe it was because of the lack of overtly adult themes that would make it geared toward adults. Whatever it was, something in the back of my mind kept telling me that this was marketed to the wrong audience but somehow became popular being put in the wrong genre. However, I could just be going insane.
The second thing that was confusing as I was reading was the timeline. This book isn’t told in a linear progression but instead hops back forth between past, future and present. While it started coming together and making sense toward the end of the book, the timeline should have been making sense earlier. I believe the only reason it started making sense in the end was because it started going back a forth between two different years, instead of Morgenstern trying to jump around to seemingly random years when she didn’t have to. It made it difficult to put together what happened when, which was frustrating for me.
As to the characters, I found that I didn’t much care about what happened to them. They were flat, with little to no character growth. I felt no attachment or loathing toward any of them and found them rather uninteresting. Whenever some depth was marginally introduced into a character it was never mentioned again and never built on. It almost felt like Morgenstern was afraid to really delve into the characters and instead focused on those surface traits that don’t take much effort to understand and unpack.
The plot was unexceptional. From what I had heard and read about this book before reading it, I was expecting there to be lots of adventure and drama. I discovered, however, that this was not the case. Basically, it’s a story about a circus and two magicians that compete against each other but fall in love. It was pretty white bread as excitement goes. I wouldn’t call the competition “fierce” as the synopsis would indicate. I would call it more lukewarm.
Overall, I found this book disappointing and despite the fact that it’s not very long and it’s a very fast read, it took me forever to finish it. Not from a lack a time, but lack of interest. Basically, I managed to get through it without hating it, but also not really caring about it either. It’s possible I’m becoming more cynical as the pile of disappointing books gets progressively larger, but I honestly don’t see what made this book so popular. My advice is the same as that I gave for The Fault in Our Stars. If you just want something quick to read without thinking about anything, go ahead and read this one. If you want to read something that you will remember for longer than a couple weeks after you’re done finishing it, don’t bother with this book. I’ve already forgotten half of it, and I finished it last night.