Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

14 Sep

I know you’re a faithful bunch, readers. But I also know you’re busy. And there’s Facebook and Twitter to check. So let me summarise this for you…

Reasons to read this review: 

1. The author is being dubbed ‘the new JK Rowling’. Oh yes.

2. The film rights have just been snapped up Summit films (of Twilight fame)

3. It was the subject of a whopping 7 figure bidding war…

Hmm?? Interested yet? Much? 

Here’s the story…

Towards the beginning of the year, I was just finishing up a meeting with some of the publicists at Random House when a mysterious looking proof was pressed into my palms. A black jacket littered with silver stars, it had just three sentences on its cover:

“The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it. 

It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

I’ll be honest – it pretty much had me there. I was sold. Sold on the mystery, the sparkly little stars and the contagious excitement of the publicists. I often hear ‘this book is going to be the next huge thing’, but with this one… I just believed it. Call me a sucker for good marketing and a pretty cover, maybe, but there was something about the premise that struck me as unique and yet classic at the same time.

This book is going to be massive.


Morgenstern’s debut is the story of the Cirque des Reves, a mysterious travelling circus that becomes an international fin de siecle sensation. But as you may have guessed, this is no ordinary circus. It’s black and white tents hide unbelievable attractions; a beautiful garden set in a permanent snowy winter, a vertiginous cloud maze, a room of bottled-up scents that have the power to take you back to your childhood, a carousel with animals so real you can feel them breathe…

Basically, if you take the Water for Elephants big top  as your base, you’ll need to whack the intrigue factor up a good couple of notches, add a sprinkle of ghostly mystery, thrown in the unsettling dizziness of tight-rope walking and slosh in a whole gallon of dark magic… and then you’re only getting close.

The spectacular circus attractions draw in visitors from all over the world, including the reveurs (dreamers),  a group of aficionados who dress in black and white with a dash of red for recognition. But what none of the audience realises is that the dreamlike circus is actually a battlefield. Duelling magicians Celia and Marco, bound into a deadly game by Prospero (Celia’s father) and Alexander (Marco’s mentor), know they must prove that their magic is the strongest, but not what the outcome of the battle will be or how the winner is decided. As they create tent after tent of magnificent creations, they find themselves working together more than against each other, and soon they fall inextricably in love. Cue drama.

The Night Circus isn’t a book for someone that wants action catapulting itself off every page. Descriptions of the circus are long and lengthy, and at times I felt that Bailey (a teenager experiencing the circus in wide-eyed wonder) and his chapters served nothing more than to give Morgenstern a chance to take her imagination on a rollercoaster ride. But it’s an incredible journey, and I can honestly say this is an occasion to use the word ‘enthralled’ and actually mean it. I want to take her brain, squeeze it gently and sell the juice by the bottle-load. Or actually scrap that – i’ll just guzzle it all myself.

The Night Circus is a dazzling tale of forbidden love in a magical world that will really awaken your imagination.  It feels unique and groundbreaking but the fin-de-siecle timing and monochrome styling make it deliciously classic at the same time. It sparkles like a dusty antique gem. Characterisation might take a bit of a back seat, but who cares when you’ve got front row tickets to the best circus in the world?


5 Responses to “Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern”

  1. Yasmeen September 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    We would love to draw your attention to the unique interactive story we’ve created to accompany The Night Circus. Visit to get a fascinating glimpse of the circus’s secrets.

  2. missgivans February 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    This is a completely delicious review – I’ve seen this book about, but your review is what has made me want to get out there and buy it – thank you!

    • proseandconsbookclub February 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

      Thank you! So kind of you to comment. I thought it was fantastic, please do let me know what you think when you’ve read it! xx


  1. The Orange Prize longlist: my top 5 contenders « - March 7, 2012

    […] Fin-de-siecle wizardry, inventive storytelling and one of the best love scenes you’ll ever read. Full (and extremely excitable) review here. […]

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