'The Night Circus' Book Review

Updated: May 24

Book: The Night Circus Author: Erin Morgenstern Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fiction Pages: 490 (Paperback) Published: 2012 (UK) My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Good morning everyone! Today's review is of Erin Morgenstern's book 'The Night Circus'.


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, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

(Synopsis from Goodreads - Link)


This is going to be a difficult one to review. I loved it, I really did... but at the same time, I didn't.

The story follows Celia and Marco, who have been chosen since childhood to compete in a duel against one another. The circus is their playing field, each player constructing or producing something new as a 'move' for the other. However, they both fall in love and all of a sudden, knowing that there can only be one winner leads to some difficult decisions.

I feel that my review MUST begin with the circus. 'Le Cirque des Rêves' is only open at night, and the creativity it holds - woahhh. Incredible. Simply incredible. Morgenstern's brain must be full to bursting with ideas and imagination! The descriptions of each and every wonder of the circus, depicted within each and every sentence, is second to none. She writes so it becomes impossible to imagine yourself anywhere else, the senses, the ingenuity, the magic - all come together to create a feast for the reader. I don't think I've ever found it as easy to escape into a book; if you turn the page you're immediately pulled inside. I'd give this book five stars easily if it was based on the circus alone.

But unfortunately, it isn't. The circus is only the playground. Outside of this, Celia and Marco's challenge goes on. Sadly, it's this element of the story that I struggled with. Celia, daughter of a famous "real" magician, and Marco, an orphaned boy chosen by a mysterious man in a grey suit, are good characters within themselves. Each has personality, thought, feeling... yet in terms of the mighty 'duel', not so much. When reading the blurb of the book, and synopsis online, I feel that it raised my expectations of what's to come. The two main characters are raised from childhood for a challenge or duel, and not much information is released about it neither to the two involved nor the reader which builds the suspense. However, once we finally (and that is a 'finally', as I did find that it really drags at times), reach the final duel - it's not at all what you'd expect. I am keeping this review spoiler free, so I can't go into it much more. Yet in essence, this so-called 'challenge' between the two is no more than a challenge of creativity, rather than skill or magic ability.

I hate to be critical about this book. Honest, I do. I read Morgenstern's other book 'The Starless Sea' before this one, and I really loved it. And as a result, The Night Circus had been pushed ahead on my TBR and my eagerness and excitement to read this book grew even more. It's just unfortunate that it didn't live up to my expectations.

To conclude, the storyline isn't the best (sorry!) but the imagination, creativity and writing is outstanding. I could never in a million years write something so innovative, so unique, so... real. The disappointing storyline removes a couple of stars for me, being the basis of a good book. However, due to the aforementioned incredible brain of Morgenstern - she's gained bonus points and I'll reward the book with another half star. Therefore, I give this book a rating of 3 and a half stars.

Have you read 'The Night Circus'? What did you think of it? If you'd like to read my review of Morgenstern's 'The Starless Sea', click here. Take care and stay safe, Sophie x

'The Night Circus' - Erin Morgenstern

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