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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

night circus erin morgenstern Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This guest review is kindly provided by Jami Zehr of Absurdly Nerdly

At its heart, the tale of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a love story as intricate as the small wonders found inside each of the hundreds of tents that make up Le Cirque des Reves, also known as The Circus of Dreams. Prospero the Enchanter, born Hector Bowen, works as an illusionist hiding his magic behind mechanics, instead of mechanics creating magic as most illusionists are wont to do, when a small child shows up on his doorstep. Her name is Celia Bowen, she is his daughter. She was born with his same innate ability to manipulate the world around her. Upon discovery of his daughter and her abilities, Hector sends off a letter across the sea with no address. Yet it reaches its destination and sets in motion a chain of events. A man in a gray suit arrives and Hector introduces him as Alexander to Celia. Celia is six the first time she meets Alexander. He seems little impressed with her abilities, but agrees to a match. It will be a game of sorts, similar to chessbut not. Alexander sets out to find his own player to place upon the board and discovers a young boy in an orphanage, Marco. Alexander begins Marco's education in magic through a hands-off tutelage of books and field trips Celias training is full of disparaging remarks from her father, manipulation of emotions, and pain. When the players are ready, Hector and Alexander set up the chess board, place the pieces on the board, and watch to see who will win a game they havent been taught how to play. Marco and Celia have one rule, they are not to interfere with the other person's work. The game begins.

Like a good illusionist, Morgenstern weaves a tale of intrigue, followed by slights of hand, and ending in a flourish inspiring awe. She continuously interweaves three main themes: dreams, games, and love. She describes Le Cirque des Reves in exquisite detail, where not only is the circus theme dreams, but while I read about the world created by Morgenstern I felt as though I were in a dream. Tents full of clouds, ice gardens, and train rides toward the night sky are fully imagined, laid out on the page, and reinvented in the my mind's eye as vividly as a dream I had just dreamed. The aesthetics of the circus are carefully created by the characters in charge of the atmosphere of the circus and by the author in the pages of the book. I was delighted.

Celia and Marco are forced to play a game set in motion before either was really aware of the gifts they possess and the power they wield. Morgenstern delves into some of the philosophy of playing games, how the ripple effect of moving people as pawns creates a lot of chaos. As her story unfolds she shows that games in life are never as neat as moving a Bishop piece across the board to checkmate the King. Even when every move is thought through, the results are never completely predictable when human feelings and emotions are involved. Past played games infect the present played game. Time affects the results. Lack of knowledge is a power and a blindfold. As I watched the game unfold in the story of Celia and Marco, I began to question what games I play in life and how the ripple effects may affect more people than I realise. The story made me think that maybe I should be careful of the moves I make in life. It is a profoundly effective route Morgenstern uses to get her message across, and she succeeds.

While the game plays into the suspense of the story, driving the background, moving the pieces forward, is the personal connections that bring everything to life. One thing Morgenstern effectively used a character in the book to write about the circus. By using a different voice, she created magic by juxtaposition. By using a view outside of the intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the game and the circus I felt as though I understood the circus as a whole.

The use of several narratives to tell the story made the circus seem more real, and that the impossibility of the plot may not be so impossible after all. I thought it clever to use the voice of one who is in love with the circus to make the reader fall in love with the circus. Morgensterns prose is beautiful, the story compelling, the people driving the plot relatable. While the story does skip around the time line between different years and different stories, something I normally dislike, Morgenstern's use of the present tense for each year which drew me in to the moment and the timing of the story became unimportant. I found myself just enjoying the moment that I was reading about, and I soon discovered the beauty of that simple effect.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is simply a breathtaking piece of work. I enjoyed immersing myself in the story. I recommend this book to persons not normally interested in the magical circus fantasy genre as a piece of writing that crosses and combines several genres.

Read other reviews by Jami Zehr on her blog Absurdly Nerdly

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  1. Yep, I cant wait to read this one too! Great review.

  2. Clearly I havent been paying enough attention to your blog. So many great reviews I need to comment on. :) Ill continue to play catch up.

    I think the Night Circus is a fantastic read and its my go to recommendation for people Im not too sure about what to recommend.

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