A hand holds a black and white big top circus on a black background with stars

About the Book

Title: The Night Circus
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Like An M-F’in Adult
BFF Charm: Ehh?
Talky Talk: Atmospheric
Bonus Factors: The Circus, Rival Magicians
Relationship Status: Not My Typical Date Night

Cover Story: Like An M-F’in Adult

I think this cover is just lovely and it’s one of the first things that initially attracted me to this book. I love illustrations and this shows the titular night circus, just how I’d picture it. One of the reasons this book probably got its classy cover is that it’s being marketing as adult fiction. But enough readers have been considering it YA that FYA decided to review it for the site.

The Deal:

Prospero the Enchanter is the world’s greatest illusionist. Except that what he does is no illusion. He is a true magician, manipulating the environment around him in ways the rest of us believe impossible. When given guardianship of his estranged daughter Celia, Prospero finds himself a pupil with unmatched natural talent. Prospero and an old rival, a man known as Mr. A. H-, decide to engage in a game, pitting their pupils against each other in a mysterious challenge. Celia is Prospero’s protg and Mr. A. H- hand picks Marco from an orphanage. Both Celia and Marco spend their youths training, learning how to use real magic, for the competition that neither quite understands the rules of. When they’re of age, a venue is chosen – Le Cirque des Rêves, an unusual nighttime only circus that appears and disappears without warning. Celia and Marco prove their skills by creating fabulous circus exhibitions to outdo one another. But soon learn they have no idea just how complicated their competition really is.

BFF Charm: Ehh?

BFF charm with a :-| face

Okay, here’s the thing. This book has an omniscient narrator that describes the events and people of the story. As a result, we never really get into the heads of our main characters. And I felt like our rival magicians (Celia and Marco) were less fleshed out than some of the more interesting secondary characters. That said, I didn’t feel much toward either of them, positive or negative. I was never really invested in anything that was going to happen to them. Which isn’t very exciting when you don’t care what happens to the people you’re reading about. Also? Marco seems like kind of a dick (but more on that later!) Celia seems like someone I could be friends with, but it’s hard to tell what she’s really like because her life and everything she does is so singularly focused on The Competition.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5 For Some, 0 For Me

This is one of those times where I admit that I may be an outlier here. This story had all the workings for a super romantic relationship. You’ve got a bit of a star-crossed scenario, rivals who are working against each other but can’t help developing mutual respect…and more. It’s a pretty timeless and well-tread scenario. And I think many folks reading The Night Circus will be super into seeing this affair play out. I’m just not one of them. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t really invested in Marco or Celia so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I wasn’t invested in a relationship between them either. Plus, Marco totally has some girl he’s possibly banging on the side, for years. Years. And drops her in a hot second for Celia, because he never really loved the other girl in the first place. Which makes it SO much better. Sheesh. Basically, I think some people are really going to dig this love story. It just did absolutely nothing for me.

Talky Talk: Atmospheric

Even thought Celia and Marco are the story’s main character, sometimes I feel like Le Cirque des Rêves was the true main character. And that all other characters were created for it. This book is heavy on the descriptions of the circus and its different exhibitions and performers. Here, for example, is our first viewing of the circus:

The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

But it is not open for business. Not just yet.

Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe.

And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads:

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

In my opinion it is less heavy on the characters and plot. The emphasis on description (vice action) made The Night Circus a bit of a slow read for me. However, I feel like you get a clear picture of this book’s style within the first few chapters and can tell early on whether that style is right for you.

Bonus Factor: The Circus

An elephant balancing on a ball on top of a big top tent.

Circuses seem to be all the rage these days. They are totally the new magical boarding schools! But yeah, circuses are sometimes cool. They have acrobats and magicians and snack! But unfortunately they also have clowns (terrifying) and animals (who look so, so sad).

Bonus Factor: Rival Magicians

The two main magicians from The Prestige

Rival magicians is probably one of my all time favorite gimmicks.

Relationship Status: Not My Typical Date Night

I had been hearing a lot of hype about this book before we went on a date. So much that I felt there was no way for it to live up to those expectations. But since I understood that going in, I was able to appreciate it for what it was. It was like this book took me on a date to an artsy dance performance. I enjoyed it, but it isn’t typically how I would choose to spend my time. I did enjoy my brief time with a book outside my usual comfort zone. And as long as you don’t buy into the hype too much, you might too.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Doubleday. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Night Circus is available now.

Megan is an unabashed fangirl who is often in a state of panic about her inability to watch, read and play all the things.