The Night Circus

  • Author : Erin Morgenstern
  • Pages : 490
  • Genre : Historical Urban Fantasy
  • Translated as « Le Cirque des Rêves »

Summary :

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

The Circus was created as a part of a challenge. Since they were young, Celia and Marco are opponents in a magic contest and their goal is to defeat the other one by creating the most incredible illusions, tricks and shows. The Circus is a part of the challenge but it also is a part of a forbidden love story.

My Opinion :

The plot

The Night Circus is not a plot nor a character driven story. There are some elements that contribute to the challenge, some twists that make the story goes forward, some characters that we like to follow but this is mainly a book about feels. We follow the begining of the challenge then the creation of Le Cirque des Rêves and the people involved then the life of the Circus and the travels. This story is about all of the elements that make the Circus whimsical and unique and magical, all the diffent tents and shows and show workers. This is also about the magnetism that the circus provokes on the visitors and their urge to come back every nights until the circus disappears.

While it was a unique experience to read this book, the little of plot that happens left me kind of indifferent. Actually, the parts I liked the most was the descriptions of the Circus itself and all the magical elements within it. I can understand why so many people loved it but it was not unforgettable for me. I really enjoyed it while reading it but as soon as I closed the book, I had the feeling that the story was not going to stick with me for long.

The characters

The fact that the story takes place in the 19th/20th century made me discover different kind of characters and I liked that. Their cloths, their environment and their language contributed to fully immerse myself in the story. But while I enjoyed following the different characters, Celia, Marco, Isobel, Bailey, the twins, etc… I was not strongly attached to any of them. We follow a lot of different people and maybe this is why I felt like they were all a little underdevelopped. As I said earlier, the Night Circus is not really a character driven story and this is the main element that disappointed me during my reading. I need to feel a connection with the characters to fully enjoy a story and because I did not have strong feelings about any of them, except maybe Bailey that I really liked, I kind of forgot about them instantly.

The writing style

The strength of the book is the writing style for sure. The descriptions, the immersion, the way the sentences are built, made me love the story instantly and continue reading when my interest lowered. Erin Morgenstern has a unique way to describe her universe and every glimpse of the circus we get impressed me. She has an incredible imagination and you can’t stay indifferent to the world she created in her book.

“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”

Sum up and Rating :

Positive :

  • The writing style
  • The imagination of the world

Negative :

  • The lack of character development
  • The rush in the end which left me a little confused

As I loved The Starless Sea by the same author so much, I had very high expectations for this book and I ended up a little bit disappointed. I loved the atmosphere and the circus itself but the characters and the challenge left me indifferent. For these reasons, I give this book a 17/20. I recommand it for sure to the people who like beautiful writing style and one of a kind story with a unique atmosphere.

The Starless Sea

« A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun. »

  • Author : Erin Morgenstern
  • Pages : 500
  • Genre : Fantastique / Urban Fantasy
  • Translation coming on October 1st 2020

Summary :

When he was young, Zachary Ezra Rawlins found a door, painted on a wall behind his house. He never tried to open it. Now in college, 25 years old Zachary finds a book at the library. It is a collection of stories, more like fairy tales, about a place called The Starless Sea. One of them is about The son of the fortune teller, who found a painted door on a wall and never opened it. He never opened it because he did not know it was the beggining of his story. But it is never to late to enter it.

My Opinion :

The plot

We follow Zachary in his journey through a story he does not fully understand. There is not much happening but more questionning, assimilating and figuring what is happening to him. He is dragged into something he never imagined could be real, without really wanting it in the first place. He discovers he is a part of a bigger story whether he want it or not. So we follow him and the characters he meet, discovering, getting lost, figuring who they are and what is their part in this bigger confusing story.

The singularity of this novel and what made me fall in love with it right away is the chapters alternation between chapters following the main character and other chapters narrating bits of the books Zachary discovers throughout his journey. These bits read like fairy tales, they are beautifully written and enchanting. They really contribute to the story and sometimes I was more interested in these chapters than in the « main ones ». The purpose of this narration is to give keys to unravel the story Zachary is struggling to understand and we soon discover throughout the book that all of these bits of stories are connected to one another. When I was putting down the starless sea to do something else, several times my mind stayed in the story and was trying to put the pieces of what I read together, making theories about connections, which character is which in reality… And at the second I finished it, I wanted to start it all over again because that is how amazing it was.

The characters

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a character I loved reading about. He is this 25 years old gay guy, a little bit lost in life, struggling to make friends and spending all his free time at the university library. As a son of a fortune teller, he is very down-to-earth. Actually, what I really liked about him is that he never fully believes in this magical world he discovers, which is something I never saw in a book before.

« Zachary Ezra Rawlins stares into a wardrobe that contains only a great deal of sweaters and linen shirts and trousers and questions his sanity again. »

There is actually one of my favourite thing to read in this book : the character who discovered magic is real is suddenly dragged into reality and every element is made to make him believe none of what he lived before is real and he imagined everything. Quite often, his mental health is something he struggled with in the past so he has a real reason to question his lucidity.

I liked the other characters even if they were not as developped as Zachary. The relationships felt a bit rushed but because the book reads like a fairy tale, it is not annoying. What I mean by that is that we know what happens to the characters is meant to happen anyway, so in a sense, a « love at first sight » is believable in these circumstances.

The writing

The writing style is what made me fall in love with the story at the first sentence. Erin Morgenstern knows how to use words to make you feel the power of her story. She created a full lenght novel that feels like a million fairy tales at a time, inspired by Harry Potter, Narnia, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and litterature in general. When I was reading, I wrote this sentence that reflects perfectly what the story is about : « One story becomes many and yet, the many is actually one ». The author created a one of a kind story with a level of intrication I did not believe was possible.

Erin Morgenstern is especially talented to transliterate the feelings of confusion, fever and dreams. The harbors described in the novel are mazes full of books and hidden doors that lead to other places and even other timelines. And as I was reading, I was telling myself that reading this book was like being in an actual labyrinthine : every page leads you to something else and instead of unravelling the story, it confuses it even more. Even the ending leaves you with questions and confusion and theories about what this book was actually about. This is something I adored and that is why this novel especially leaves its mark on me.

Sum Up and Rating :

Positive :

  • The one of a kind writing
  • The complexity of the story (stories)
  • The originality of the characters

Negative :

  • The exact same ones if you are not into those kind of weird stories
  • The open ending

You may have understand it by now but the Starless Sea is one of my new favourite book of all time and my favourite book of the year so far. The story, the writing style, the characters, everything in this novel spoke to me in a particular way. I obviously give this book a 20/20 and highly recommand it to anyone sensible to this kind of weird and confusing urban fantasy with extra flowery writing style.