Sunday 22 September 2013

Book Review - The Night Circus

The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morganstern
Genres: Fantasy | Adult
Release Date: 24th May 2012
Publishers: Vintage Books
No. Pages: 502
Source: Purchased
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
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.

After having read The Night Circus over a year ago, and failing to provide a very good review for it, I thought that I could re-read it, not only to do a much better review, but also, because it is and always will be a favourite of mine.

Other than the Harry Potter Series, I've never read a book more than once, and so the experience of re-reading events that I already knew happened was both strange and exciting, and I fear that on this occasion, re-reading allowed me to see the problems I had previously shrugged away with this book, and while they were minor problems, they were problems nonetheless. The first problem I had was with the introduction and dragging out of an almost attempted love triangle. I recall that when I first read this, I hadn't really noticed or appreciated the attempt, whereas a year on and a large number of books read since, I could, and while it was written in such a fashion that I didn't take a hating to one of the three characters, it did go on for, in my opinion, just a little too long. The second of miniature problems I had was the constant use of 'he said', 'she said', 'they said' and so on. If life trudged along with just people 'saying', it'd be a pretty boring place, and sadly, parts of the book did become just that, a little boring. My only wish is that the characters weren't so laid back and actually put some feeling into to their words; then they may have started exclaiming, or been enthusiastic, or even angered just that little bit more, although this is probably another very personal thing to me. My last little niggle was that with a lot of thought and a day or two to settle the matter, I feel that there wasn't that strong a plot. Yes, they have have a battle, a duel, to the death. No, they don't. They have a nice little comparison of talents over 15 odd years, find out they love each other after having met each other three times and been in each others company for a total of possibly 36 hours, before one finds out the other must die for the game/challenge to end. They have a good few years of being emotional and not wanting the other to die, and then they end up being able to be with each other, without dying. Having read some pretty fantastic books with really good plots, I realised I was a little disappointed the lack of a defined one in this book. I think previously, I'd been completely swept up in the elegant and mysteriousness of the circus; that I had paid more attention to the words and hadn't really taken much time to consider the structure. I fear that Erin Morgenstern focused too much on creating a wonderful world for you to imagine, rather than all the features that come together to make a book, a brilliant book. But, as with the other problems, this could be entirely personal and you might like a story that's just a story, that just flows as it reads and keeps you reading for hours on end through to silly o'clock at night, and that's perfectly fine by me.

While I did have problems with the book, everything else was pretty darn beautiful. As I was the first time, I was once again swept into this wonderful circus full of mystery and fascinating quirks, with the most undeniably gorgeous sounding food and drink, surrounded by the darkness and elegance of the night. Yes, I shall never stop blowing this books description trumpet. As with most other books, people have personal tastes to writing styles, and in this case, I feel it's a taste of a heavily descriptive style. If you're not someone who enjoys creating an entire area, a complete environment around that make you feel as though you're in there with the characters, in the tents, in the grounds, eating the food, then I'm sorry, but this book really isn't for you. That's it. Poor and simple. But personally for me, I thoroughly enjoy imagining surroundings and characters and the setting so vividly, that the image of the circus is always within my memory, and get ready for the cheesy part: whenever I'm genuinely feeling down, I always imagine what I'd be like to be there, and do those things, and it helps. You are now welcome to throw up.

The varied times and perspectives of the story are a little confusing the first time you read this, but by the time you've started re-reading it, you pay much more attention to the years in which the different perspectives are set and appreciate how the two main perspectives reach each other and overlap. I still had problems with just how many different character perspectives their were, while the time perspectives were fine with me. Some of the characters I felt were mentioned too often considering their personalities or importance in the story, where-as some whom I felt were much more important, received much less time and mentions.

While this did disappoint me, I was more than happy with the style, especially that of the present progressive. That's right kiddies, Mrs Morgenstern is into her varied tenses, but this one blew me away. It was written in such a personal way that allowed the reader to feel as though they were a part of circus, while not being involved or drawn into the story or history of the circus. I only have wonderful and positive things to say about the style of the writing in the way the whole setting, whether in the circus, or the apartment, or the Manor House, or whether it be the slight tie ins relating from game to circus; the colours of chessboards being identical to those of the circus, the reflection of each opponent, if you could call them that, being of each colour, the matching so well for both main characters so they fit almost too perfectly together, even with their different methods of teachings and backgrounds, the entirety of this book was overall, pardon the pun, magical.

Now, to the characters, to which there are only really a few I feel I want to mention, and how I feel are important enough to discuss. The following will contain a few spoilers, but if you've not read The Night Circus yet, tread carefully below. Celia and Marco: I honestly don't feel I can discuss one without the other, considering how they're 'bound' together, like fate, which is both cheesy and cliché, but hey ho. Both these characters, I felt,were quite possibly the mirrored image of one another, Celia from having known both her parents, being taught practically, using her real name on almost every occasion, and of course, being of the female sex, while Marco knew very little, if anything about his parents, was taught via his literature and reading, using a fake name and being very much male, along with their difference in talents. I felt this was probably done to continue with the theme of opposites matching and complimenting each other extremely well. I did like these touches of style and theme, but I felt the relationship/love aspect of both Celia and Marco was a little, bland. I felt that once they'd met one another after years upon years and realised who they each were, the insta-love feature just became active and then there was no stopping the absolute obsessiveness eye staring, attention grabbing, 'I can't bare to be without' things that follow. In the end, I really felt very little for their relationship and for the love they shared. But I feel separately, they were both well built, defined characters who both showed their own qualities and skills, I feel it's just a shame that it feels almost impossible for there to be one without the other.

Isobel: Yes, I want to talk about Isobel because she was so important to the story, really, she was. She was the first person Marco had confided in about his talents and she took it all on-board. She sacrificed a future of endless possibilities in order to to help Marco with his challenge and join the circus as a spy. She'd previously escaped an arranged marriage and done everything she could to move on in her life, meeting Marco, and falling for him. She helped protect the circus and both Celia and Marco from themselves with her cards. She predicted how important Bailey would be the future of the circus. And yet through all this, through all the amazing strength Isobel had, she was still hurt by the man she'd chosen to trust after suffering at the hands of another. Then, just for the cherry on top, she still helps Celia and Marco be together. If that doesn't give this lady a reason to be mentioned and praised for her job well flippen' done, I don't know what does.

Bailey, Poppet and Widget: Now come on, these three were just glorious. The twins, Poppet and Widget brought an innocence to the circus, and I adore how they were born the day the circus started, and either sides of midnight, keeping with the theme of before and after, the black and white, along with their talents matching their personalities. The introduction of new life to the circus on the circus birthday felt quite representative too, and in some ways, even during my first time reading it, I knew the twins would play an important part in the circus in the future and was excited to see how. Can I also mention how bloody adorable all their kittens were please?! Bailey on the other hand was quite possibly my favourite of all the characters. I felt he was an honest depiction of being young and not knowing what you want from your future, but feeling so strongly for something, that in the end, it's all you want. His character growth and building was the most realistic and largest, and his bravery, his personality, and his seclusion made me love him all over again. His sweet sort of relationship with Poppet was also beautiful to read about, and possibly more interesting to me than Celia and Marco's. That may be harsh, but it's true. There was a small amount of fate involved in their meetings, but they were honest, they were pretty darn adorable, and the fact that Bailey travelled across America for Poppet with no way of knowing where she was heading, or how he'd get there, all because she was certain they were meant to be together, in one or another, is just sweet. Okay, just sweet.

Herr Friedrick Thiessen: There isn't much I can say about Herr, I just felt he needed mentioning as he was the character I felt I saw most of myself in. He felt to me, like a character based on what Erin Morgenstern wanted her readers to be like, mesmerized by the circus, to think of the circus whenever they can, to dream of the circus. I was so very sad when Herr left the story..

This book really make you think about how far you should dream, and just how much dreams can be dangerous. Dreaming too much and too hard can either make you crazy, or, it can result in something much bigger and better than you could ever have imagined. I felt his story highlighted that for me personally. Overall, I would take half a star off from my previous review, which makes me sad, but feels right considering the problems I had.

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