Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Pages: 387
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: ARC

Billed as one of the must-read books of the fall, The Night Circus has been read and discussed by so many bloggers that I feel like my review will easily be passed over. I don't blame anyone, as I can't say I don't do the same sometimes with the more popular books at a given moment. However, the difference between my review and the many others out there is that mine will not be as glowing. If that has caught your attention then feel free to continue on or stop, whichever the case may be. I'm foregoing the posting of a summary, but if you have never heard of The Night Circus you can check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Let's start out with the negative and get that out of the way. Not only was I greatly anticipating reading this book, but it was also my book club's October pick, so I had an excuse to read it sooner than I might have otherwise. Unfortunately, when I turned the last page I couldn't help feeling a little duped. Basically, I was a victim of all the hype and marketing surrounding the book, and I fear that my expectations were raised so high that they would never be met no matter what words lie between the covers. Where were the epic romance and the fierce battle promised on the jacket copy? For the most part the plot dragged in the middle, and I wish there had been more action to propel the story forward. The novel could have benefited from a little more focus and explanation of the origin of the competition between Hector and Alexander - not because I didn't understand the material, but because I think this would have integrated the necessary conflict more easily.

I will give credit to Morgenstern for her writing ability, especially considering this is her debut novel. While some of the descriptions were a little too long-winded to keep my full attention, I did feel that setting as well as the atmosphere depicted created quite a magical reading environment. The second person inserts definitely help immerse the reader in the circus. One of my favorite passages concerns the idea of storytelling:
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 they might do because of it because of your words. That is your role, your gift.
While I wasn't as blown away as many reviewers, I did come away entertained. The book fit in quite nicely with the entrance of fall and the cold, crisp nights. Overall, I recommend The Night Circus hesitantly in the hopes that others will lower their expectations before diving in. I wish I had known to do the same.


  1. Yes. I still haven't been able to post a review that I felt accurately described how I walked away from this one. Exactly how I felt though. P.S. We're currently in Chattanooga for the night just so I can hit up McKay's in the morning. What have you introduced me to, Jenna?!?

  2. "Where were the epic romance and the fierce battle promised on the jacket copy?" I agree. I share your opinion of this one. It was amazingly descriptive, but the plot was lacking something. At least you now know you're not alone.

  3. Aarti and I discussed this one at length and she agreed with you that the plot and the characters took a backseat to the mood and the atmosphere, so you are not alone in how you felt with this book. I got all caught up in the magical qualities of the descriptions and the circus, so I was less able to see the flaws, but I do recognize them now after some time has passed. Great and very candid review on this one. I loved it.

  4. This one is still in the TBR, aging like a good Port, waiting for the dust-like hype to settle down...

  5. I'm sorry this one wasn't as good as you expected! I think there's a lot of subtle beauty and intrigue to this book which made me fall in love with it.
    However the hype-monster is a tricky beast. It has definitely left me disappointed in books that were supposed to be great.

  6. I really appreciate this review -- I've seen mostly swoons (now and then a less than gush-y review) but as one who often hates the hyped novels, I'm glad to read your thoughts on the story. It's good for me to scale back my expectations a little!

  7. I liked this one alot, though I don't think I liked it enough to think it will be on my top ten list. I was totally caught up in the world she created, but I was somewhat disappointed by the ending.

    Great, honest review :)

  8. I've been afraid to read this for the same reasons, that the hype has raised my expectations too high. I have this book but I'll probably wait a little while to read it!

  9. Due to this post, my expectations have now been lowered. I hate being disappointed by books, because of all the hype surrounding it. I'm going to start reading this book with my eyes wide open, ready to be disappointed or, hopefully, amazed. :)


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