Friday, October 7, 2011

The Night Circus

Can you believe it? No drugs!

At first I was looking forward to reading this book. The author, Erin Morgenstern, first conceived of the idea for this book when taking part in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2004. When she was done writing it, though, she had a hard time finding anyone interested in it. Thirty literary agents rejected it before someone finally took it on. In the end she received a six figure advance for the book and the number thirty is now the number of foreign publishers that have agreed to publish the book as well.

But then the hype started. "The next Harry Potter!". Ugh. Seriously? I hate the next anything. Why can't thinks be appreciated on their own merits? Why must there always be comparisons? Saw one review call it the next Harry Potter with a Twilightesque forbidden love. Double ugh.

Add in the fact that I am oversaturating myself with books and I really didn't need to be reading this. Then we got it into the library and there weren't any holds on it....well, what the heck.

I liked it. The author blurb on the dustjacket cites Morganstern's love of fairy tales and that's what this feels like. Two magicians place a wager with one another on who can teach a student to do magic best. The one magician uses his daughter as his student, the other grabs a young man from an orphanage. And we're talking "real" magic here, not pick-a-card-sleight-of-hand hijinks. The field of competition is the Le Cirque des Reves, a mystical circus that is only open at night.

The two students, Celia and Marco, don't know initially that they are in competition with each other yet they know that they are in competition. They fall in love with one another before they realize that they should be vying against one another.

The chapters are very short and very dreamlike. Morganstern does a wonderful job creating a fairy tale atmosphere and she makes the reader long for the reality of the circus. If there was really a Night Circus, I would definitely go and perhaps even try and run off with it. Or at least become it's archivist and librarian.

Where Morganstern is lacking, though, is in plot and character development. The chapters jump back and forth through time which, in some places, creates a nice sense of tension, but in most just makes things confusing. A more linear timeline I think would have improved the story.

Celia and Marco's "love" for one another seems very superficial. The whole reason behind the battle between magicians is unclear, especially since the two teachers have fought this duel before. There is a subplot of a young lad falling for another circus performer and running off with the circus which leads to what I felt was as unsatisfyingly tidy ending.

Really, the whole time I read this, I was thinking "Young Adult" book. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I just felt the book lacked depth. It never felt like there was any sort of tension or conflict that would be resolved. You just had the sense that things would work out. Maybe it was the fairy tale aspect.

Ultimately, it's the fairy tale aspect that made me like this book as a not young adult. The Night Circus was a wonderful literary escape that let me forget about bills and weeds and dirty floors and dream about a happily ever after. Plus, no drugs!

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