Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RΓͺves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, 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.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.


My initial thoughts after finishing The Night Circus: A beautiful, imaginative story filled with magic, love, duels and one pretty amazing circus. A must-read for fantasy lovers.

Before you delve into the magical Night Circus, there are a few things you should keep in mind. While I ended up loving the book, it took me a while to get into it. Here are a few things I wish I knew before starting the story:

  • There are time jumps and point of view changes throughout the book to introduce all of the major players in the story. We meet Celia and Marco when they are young children and then follow them as they grow up and find the circus. We also follow the timeline of Bailey, who is enchanted by the circus sometime in the future. Enjoy the ride and soak up all of the beautiful imagery because it will come together and it will make sense.
  • You will not have all of the answers. For the first half of the book I had so many questions. Who is the man in gray? Why do they compete against each other? Where does the magic come from? As I became more entrenched in the story I realized, it didn’t matter. These answers weren’t important to the story, not really. Just enjoy the magnificent world-building of the circus and the characters.

So, what is this story about then? It’s about an age-old duel between two accomplished magicians from different schools of magic. They have chosen competitors duel in a controlled setting. This time, the competitors are Celia and Marco. The setting is the circus.

My absolute favorite aspect of this story was the world-building. The story revolves around the mysterious black-and-white circus but the way Morgenstern discussed it was magnificent. Celia and Marco would continuously add new, magical displays to the circus that are described from a circus attendee’s point of view in its own chapter. The feel of the circus really sets the tone for the entire book, it almost feels like you are in a different world.

The characters are all lovely, but they are more facilitators of the circus, if that makes sense. I enjoyed the characters but didn’t get too terribly attached to them. They all played a different part in order to keep the circus running. Some were active participants, like Celia and Marco. They are aware they are competing and as they get to know each other they fall hopelessly in love. Chandresh, the original director of the circus, was not as aware of the true purpose of the circus and as a result we watch him spiral into a shell of his former self. Poppet and Widget were the twins (although I never quite figured out who the Murray’s were??) who grew up in the circus with unique abilities and play a large part in the fate of the circus.

I love how magic is a normal, accepted part of this world and a lot of the events that happen are without explanation but accepted as reality. The magic is everything from fortune-telling to illusions to manipulating fabric. Everything was described in lush, beautiful writing. 

If you are considering reading this book, I highly recommend it! It was published in 2011, but judging by the reviews and attention it has received, this book could easily become one of the most-recommended fantasy books. Happy reading!




24 thoughts on “Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern”

  1. I read this book a few months back and I really enjoyed it. I see where people are coming from when they rave about this book because the descriptions are so vivid and magical. However, it did take me a good amount of time to actually get through this book because the beginning was quite confusing and lacked intensity in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Alex, and I am so so glad to see this was one you loved as well. The Night Circus is probably my all-tome favourite book release ever, and I always love seeing other people’s reviews/seeing other people enjoying it as much as I did.
    The time jumps threw me a little when I first picked this book up, but I re-read it a lot so every time I go back into it it confuses me a little less. Now I think I’ve just gotten used to it. The world building was by far my favourite part of this book as well. I wish the Night Circus existed in real life so I could go and visit it myself one day! πŸ˜€
    Again great review. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I pretty much felt the same as you did. Whilst it was a beautiful book, sometimes I found it hard to fully immerse myself. I think that came down to the writing style; it could be utterly stunning when creating imagery, but then the coherence could get lost within it. It was good enough that I’d possibly read more of Morgenstern’s work in the future, no doubt about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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