Friday, October 7, 2011

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is full to bursting with atmosphere and really expresses a strength of the first time novelist's writing that she can actually place you in the circus with her colorful of characters.

While the characters are colorful, the circus is not.

The descriptions of the circus contained inside are what made the book for me. This was everything I have always wanted a circus to be. Feats of amazing magic contained in everything from the smallest act to the largest. The images of the tents and rides so perfectly captured in prose that I found myself wondering if anyone had thought about making this book into a movie yet. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a studio that has already bought the rights and now can just sit back and wait to see if they do these beautiful black and white acts the justice they so truly deserve.

Aside from the circus and descriptions of acts, there is a plot to the book. But don't fool yourselves, I would have read about nothing but the circus itself, the different acts and rides and performances. To the plot though.

The actual plot and setup of the book was also something that I found refreshing. It involves two magicians that are pitted against each other in a game devised by their teachers. For the game to end, one of the magicians needs to die.

There are many places where this novel borrows from Shakespeare, but no so heavy a place as this. The two magicians, a man and a woman, have been trained their entire lives for this game. They know that they are going to be competing. They aren't sure right away who their opponents are, but when they found out they happen to fall in love. Romeo and Juliet anyone?

Even with this common plot, the author has done such an astounding job of making the romance and subsequent tragedy believable in more ways than even Shakespeare did. No, I was not a fan of Romeo and Juliet and by telling you that this is what the plot reminds me of does not actually give anything away. See, I'm still spoiler free!

Earlier I said that the magic aspect was also refreshing. Witches and wizards seem to be the most popular magic humans, so it was nice to see magicians! Actual magicians being called magicians or illusionists. Not that they are a separate breed of humans, but that magic is a talent and can be learned and cultivated. I am sure that this is not the only book to look at magic like this, but it is, in my opinion, one of the better ones.

While I did enjoy this book overall, there were a few things about it that made it a little difficult for me to get into right away. The biggest is that the book skips around in time. A lot. And it can be very hard to tell when you are supposed to be as the characters, aside from a special few, never change. Superficially at least, there is some character growth and what not. The other thing I found myself getting frustrated with was how slow it took some of the characters to step into their actual parts in the book. Mentions of these characters would come and go, chapters would be spent looking at them, and it wouldn't be until chapters later that the reader would figure out where the pieces fit together. These things don't detract too much from my enjoyment, but they did keep me from finishing the book as quickly as would normally have done so. 

I would recommend this book to people who like beautiful imagery, Victorian times, circuses, and magic. Even people who are afraid of clowns can read this book.

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