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The Night Circus

by Emma on June 22, 2012

in Books

This week I finally finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I have been slowly savoring this book for the past… few months. I’m trying to remember how this book was recommended to me, but I forget. I’m sure I was sold when I learned that it was about magic. I am a sucker for fiction about magic. I think it’s a condition that everyone who grew up reading the Harry Potter’s suffers from. We are all looking for something to fill that Harry Potter shaped hole in our hearts these days. Refugees.

That got dramatic. Never mind.

The Night Circus follows a little girl and boy who are taught magic in order to compete against each other once they grow up. Their instructors also serve as their parental figures (one literally and one just by default, I suppose) and are responsible for pitting them against each other in a competition that is meant to lead to one of their deaths. The arena for their dual is the Night Circus, also called Le Cirque des Rêves. The characters eventually fall in love and this, well, complicates the competition. As you can imagine it might.

Here’s what I love about this book: the circus. It is glamorous, magical, other worldly and Morgenstern does a fantastic job transporting her readers there. There are so many details and side characters who are involved with the circus that it really becomes a world of its own. I really think this book is worth the read just for the chance to go to the night circus.

Here’s what I didn’t love about the book: the conflict. The characters dilemma, being pitted against the one you love in a fight for survival has epic potential. But, in the end, the conflict feels more like it fizzles out. I also wish the lovers relationship had been explored more. I think it’s a really interesting idea that they both grew up with cruel, isolating parental figures and yet they had no difficulty falling in love with each other. I can see how their upbringing would give them some common ground to understand each other from, but to me it seems like their pasts would have given them major distrust issues. I would have loved to have seen this obstacle confronted, as I think it would have added a level of depth to the characters and their relationship.

Have any of you read The Night Circus? What did you think? xo. Emma


Rhianna June 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I LOVED this book. It is my favorite book that I’ve read so far in 2012! I didn’t want it to end. It made me want to go to The Night Circus and wear something red so I could be a rêveur.

Brittany Smith June 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard an interview with the author on NPR months and months ago! Glad that you liked it, maybe I should pick it up this weekend.

Katey June 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I had a similar issue with Harry Potter…similar issues, I guess. First, I also have a Harry-shaped hole on my heart. But, secondly, I wondered how Harry ended up being so selfless an courageous, when he spent his life being cowed by his only family. It’s a strong picture of nature over nurture, the Dudley/Harry comparison…even though his mum and his aunt were sisters…
I haven’t read The Night Circus.

Felicia June 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I think it’s important to remember that Harry wasn’t raised beside Dudley as an equal. He was always put down, neglected, and considered inferior to his do-no-wrong cousin. So I think instead of it having a negative impact, it helped him to realize the type of person he didn’t want to be. I think that was a huge point of the series in the end – everyone has a choice, and Harry chose to be good.

(Clearly, my Harry Potter shaped hole is a gaping abyss).

Renee June 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I thought almost exactly the same thing! I really loved the circus itself (and I wouldn’t be surprised if I, too, am suffering from a post-HP lack of magic in my life) and I think Morgenstern did a wonderful job imagining and describing it. But the duel itself and the relationship between Marco and Celia didn’t seem as carefully thought out. I still really enjoyed the book though and am excited to read more of Morgenstern in the future :)

jana June 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

i’m excited you wrote about this book. i’ve been eyeing it for a while, but wasn’t sure what to think. from this little post, i’ve decided to make it my next e-book.

as for the potter shaped hole in our hearts… i completely agree.

have you read a discovery of witches by deborah harkness? that was quite an interesting read (in a non-harry-potter-magic-kind-of-way). other series i enjoyed: outlander by diana gabaldon, game of thrones by george r.r. martin, and inheritance cycle by christopher paolini :)

Emma June 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I keep hearing about Outlander… probably a sign. I should check that out soon. :)

robyn June 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

I really have not been able to read recently, but I think this sounds pretty cool-different and quite dark (not normally something i go for)-am going to put it in my basket!

Tiff June 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I absolutely ADORE this book. Still reading it actually. You spoiled just a bit of it, but it’s cool. I don’t hold grudges….for too long. ;)

This book was suggested to me through a site that keeps tabs on my likes & purchases so it was right up my ally. My favorite thing about this book was how visual the descriptions were. From the French cafe, to the backstage rooms, to the inside of the tent, and so on… The conflict added a nice amount of tension throughout the story. It kept me wanting more. I’ll probably be a bit sad when I’m finished.

Giovanna. June 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I’ve been wanting to read this for a first I wasn’t very interested because I thought it was about something totally different…Let’s be honest, I actually didn’t care to research it, but I’ve heard some good things about it recently so I shall give it a try. :)

Karen June 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I just finished it this morning; read the whole thing in about a week. I agree, it never felt like their duel was very high-stakes, even though it was obvious to the reader that it was going to be to the death.

There were some bits in there that irked me about Celia. At one point she says. “It frightens me how much I like it… How tempting it is to lose myself in you. To let go. To let you keep me from breaking chandeliers rather than constantly worrying about it, myself.” Marco never once says that he wishes he could stop being a strong independent person in order to have someone take care of him. This is something you only see women do in fiction. They start out self-reliant and intelligent and in control and as soon as they meet a man they need someone to protect them from themselves. True, both Celia and Marco are racing at the end to sacrifice themselves for the other, and they seem to end as equals, but it’s a trope that I see in books again and again.

I was much more interested in all the secondary characters’ stories than Marco and Celia.

Ashlee June 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I haven’t read this, but I have been attempting to squeeze in some summer reading as of the late. This book sounds utterly fantastic. I’m a lover of conflict and like elements of the magical/supernatural if incorporated in a way that isn’t over done or too cliche. Adding this to my must-read list! Thanks! <3

Tiffany June 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I absolutely ADORE this book. Still reading it actually. You spoiled just a bit of it, but it’s cool. I don’t hold grudges….for too long. ;)

This book was suggested to me through a site that keeps tabs on my likes & purchases so it was right up my ally. My favorite thing about this book was how visual the descriptions were. From the French cafe, to the backstage rooms, to the inside of the tent, and so on… The conflict added a nice amount of tension throughout the story. It kept me wanting more. I’ll probably be a bit sad when I’m finished.

Laura Rayburn June 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I felt the exact same about this book. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Le Cirques du reves, and the idea that the circus had a group of followers that were dedicated to finding the circus. I didn’t understand how the two fell in love so quickly and how they immediately sought to rebell against the directions they had been taught and groomed to move in for their entire lives.
I also have a Harry Potter shaped hole in my heart.

Heidi June 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I’ve not read (or even heard of!) this book but it sounds exciting!! I may have to find a copy for myself :) Thanks for the review!

Carla June 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I’ve had this on my list of books I want to pick up some time for a while but I have seen a few people saying it takes a long time to get into/is boring/have given up on it! Good to see a good review of it!

Freya June 23, 2012 at 12:13 am

Sounds kind of like Hunger Games too…putting it on my list!! I need a good fiction :)

Scout June 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

It sounds like a mashup of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, with the tiniest hint of Water for Elephants – mostly the circus part of WfE. Anyway, I think that means I’d like it :) I’ll have to look into it!

Patricia Picard June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am

It is OMG so funny, because for days I’ve been trying to explain to my friends and my boyfriend that Harry Potter hole thing. I said, it’s funny because I study In literature, the summer I should read Marguerite Duras, Balzac, Melville, you know… but but but there is that thing about magic, about night, about mysteries that was all in Harry Potter and god, I miss it so much. So, guess what? I’m gonna read for sure that book, thanks for filling my hole hahaha xoxo

Kayleigh June 23, 2012 at 3:30 am

I loved this book. I loved the premise and the setting. It was whimsical in a way that I haven’t read before. I too was disappointed in the love story. I think they trusted each other too fast. Their infatuation with each other wasn’t exactly believable to me. There were so many fantastic characters that the author created but weren’t exactly explored. I wanted it to be darker and more mysterious…. something more like, “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger. If you haven’t read that one, you should. It’s good and there is some magic in it as well!

Kayleigh June 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I’ve never seen an adult that spells their name the same way as me! I automatically like you :)

Kayleigh June 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I like you too!

Judith June 23, 2012 at 10:34 am

This book has been on my bookshelf for quite some time, but I haven’t had time to read it yet. Maybe I should start, because it sounds great :) I’m afraid the Harry-shaped hole will never disappear but hey, we keep on trying!

Sarah Rooftops June 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

Yes, I read it and felt much the same – some of it is BEAUTIFUL; I have never wanted to visit a fictional place so badly; but the emotions weren’t explored as much as I would have liked so it sometimes felt a bit style over substance. I would still recommend it to people, though.

Caity June 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I’ve been looking for more books to read, and this sounds like a perfect one to add to my list!

Bekah June 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I enjoyed this book, but I definitely agree, the conflict got boring. It had so much potential (by that I mean, I was definitely hoping for some Hunger Games-esque conflict/love stuff combined with epic Harry Potter-esque action/drama, I’m going to be honest). While the plot wasn’t perfect, the non-linear sequence was engrossing and kept me guessing, and the sensory detail and figurative language were breathtaking. It seemed like a fairy tale, in the best of ways.

Felicia June 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I actually put off reading this book because I was so disappointed by Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. People and critics said many similar things about it and The Night Circus – so much about them being perfect for adult readers who grew up reading Harry Potter. And while The Magicians didn’t pan out for me, I absolutely LOVED The Night Circus. While I do agree that Celia’s and Marco’s relationship could have been explored more, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed that it wasn’t. The book was about so much more than their relationship, and I loved all the details about the circus and other characters.

Kate June 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I just finished reading The Night Circus about a month ago. I was actually reccommended the book by a friend as well and was so excited to get into it. I am a total sucker for stories with magic and romance as well. I also had the same reservations about the book, I felt like there was something missing from the relationship of the main characters and that they could have had more depth to them, but otherwise I loved it and the imagery and the circus. I would love to turn it into a graphic novel but I’m afraid I wouldn’t do the imagery justice. I hope it gets a big audience, it deserves one.

Kayleigh June 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm

This has actually been on my reading list for about a year. I need to get on it! :)

Marie June 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I read this book to, and loved it! I totally agree with you about the Harry Potter withdrawals. I actually wrote a book review about it on my blog a couple of months ago! Here is the link:

Jessi June 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I just read this to and loved it, I thought it was beautifully written

Meghan June 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm

This sounds like a pretty good one! Have you ever read “Bloodthirsty” by Flynn Meaney? It’s about a high school boy who pretends to be a vampire to get girls…I think it would be right up your alley! I loved it as my first summer beach read! The amazon link is


T June 25, 2012 at 5:27 am

Have you read the Dark Materials trilogy? Epic.

Sarah June 25, 2012 at 5:46 am

Ugh you’re so right about this harry potter shaped hole in my heart! ♥ I may have to read this soon!


Ashley June 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I just finished this book yesterday as well and absolutely adored it. I’m always a fan of really beautifully descriptive narrative and this book did just that. Have you read anything by Sarah Addison Allen? She wrote Garden Spells, The Peach Keeper, and others…they’re all beautifully descriptive and incorporate food in a lovely way, I think you’ll really like them!

Sarah Beth June 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I read this book and I agree with your review. I thought it was well written and I was carried away with it. However the ending does fizzle out. Now I am reading Discovery of Witches. Has anyone read that??

victoria June 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Emma, i totally agree with your comments on this book. The setting was so beautifully described. That’s really what sucked me in. But the plot/character development/all that good stuff left me wanting more. I felt like I didn’t really care about most of the characters…except Bailey, that is, and we learn the most about his life, so there you go.

Not exactly book about magic, but an amazing book is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell… I’m reading it for the second time right now, and I rarely ever read a book twice. To describe it, it sounds like a geeky sci-fi book about aliens, but it is really so so so good. Has anyone here read it?

Jet June 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Loved the circus! The decoration, the people, the tents. Amazing! The love story wasn’t half as interesting as the circus story.

Chloe June 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I really did not enjoy this book. I found it confusing with the back and forth with the dates and didn’t even bother finishing it.

Sanaa June 27, 2012 at 6:13 am

I really really adored this book. The writing is really what captivated me, how she told the story more so than the story itself. I also really enjoyed the attention to scent imagery throughout the novel. Being a lover of smells, perfume, and the way scents can makes us feel I was extremely appreciative of how the experience of the circus was translated in such a way.

I understand what you are saying about the way things seem to fizzle out a bit towards the end. I wish that had been given a little more time and development seeing as their past had been built up so copiously in the beginning of the book. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall!

Also, this is my first time commenting here! I have been a reader for a long while so this is me saying hello :)

Phoebe June 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Just like everyone else, I loved the circus. Erin Morgenstern does a great job with description, and the circus is so magical. But there is practically no character development in that story. I didn’t particularly care about Celia or Marco because they had no discernable character traits. And also there was minimal plot and action to carry the story…

Kim July 21, 2012 at 8:07 am

I loved this book so much!