book review: the night circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is such an enchanting read. It's been quite a long time since i've experienced reading a book with fresh, new ideas so it's really exciting to be able to get dazzled by a really, really good book. A lot of books nowadays have very similar concepts and content with other books, the only difference between those books being the style of writing and the characters being used, and also the events in the plot. It's not actually a bad thing, but a repetition of this can bore you a little if you don't spice up your reading with something you haven't read before. This book was that spice for me.

I am rating this book 4.7 out of 5 because it was a beautiful, breathtaking read that made me literally say "that was a great book" out loud when i closed it after reading the final page. Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a perfect read and to be honest there were a lot of flaws for my own liking. However, the story told was something new, different and wonderful, which makes up for most of the imperfections of the book.

The title pretty much tells you the whole gist of what the book is about. A circus, at night, called Le Cirque des Reves. The Circus of Dreams. Only, this is not an ordinary circus. This is a circus that shows up unannounced, but attracts so many attendees who fall in love with the magical experience from each tent they explore, and leaves the circus wondering whether it was all a dream. It's a circus that keeps people wanting to come back to explore every inch of it, and still manage to find something new to discover every time.

The book starts of with a magician, Hector, disguised as an illusionist to the public discovering that he has a 6-year-old daughter, Celia, whom is now under his care after her mother passed away. He was not pleased with Celia's arrival until he discovers that his daughter has a natural gift for magic. After training her for a few months, Hector summons an old friend who wears a grey suit for most of his life, a man named Alexander. He challenges Alexander to another "game", announcing that he chooses Celia to be his player. Alexander accepts and will choose his own player soon and will pick the venue.

The game is a very ambiguous one, but one full of magic.

To be frank, the buildup and starting of the book is terribly slow. It takes a long time to really get into the book because a lot of things were unclear and ambiguous. New characters were still waiting to be introduced, and the game itself still remains a mystery for quite some time.
A big reason why this is so is because the entire story was told from a third perspective. In other words, we never get to get into any of the characters' heads to hear their thoughts on what they're going through. Not only that, but most of the chapters usually start with describing the nature of the surrounding first before introducing the scene to any characters. It makes it difficult to be able to dive into the book, especially when you're reading it when you are tired. There were many times that i actually dozed off or my mind would travel elsewhere and think about other things while reading some parts of the book. It's not that it isn't well written, it just requires more attention because of the perspective the author chose to write in.

However, at the end of the book you will understand why it was necessary for the author to tell the story in that perspective. The book is like a roller coaster ride in the technical way. It is slow to build up when it's moving towards the top, but when it reaches there the journey down is so fast and addictive, the thrill is just magnificent and breathtaking and completely worth it.

The descriptions of the circus was just incredible, although sometimes it is a little hard to really imagine what it looks like. It's like the author gives you vague descriptions of something, to leave room for your own imagination to complete the picture in your head. It's this curious wonder how Erin Morgenstern can not only make you imagine the circus in your head, but make you FEEL like you're actually there in the characters' shoes, going through the journey yourself. And this is even more impressive because the style of writing isn't even in a first person's perspective.

There were actually a few more things that bothered me about the book. Apart from the style of writing(which i learnt to accept at the end of the book given the clear reason why it was like that), the timeline of the story was a little confusing. The year of the current chapter would always be noted at the start of every chapter, but it was difficult to keep track of what year it was because the story occasionally backtracks to previous years and fastforwards to the future. It just means that you should pay extra attention to the years and mentally place the events in order in your head, but i wasn't used to have to be so active while reading a book. It was as if the author did not want to just GIVE the story to you, she wanted you to not be so lazy and put it together yourself. I did not realise this of course, so i suffered some confusion about when things were happening. It wasn't that big of a deal though, and i liked how Erin Morgenstern makes us engage with the book.


I am just in love with this circus. I feel like i could actually smell the caramel scent of the place, that i was actually walking around the many black and white tents, trying to choose which one i should explore first. The Ice Garden sounds something like Narnia which is just so fantastical and breathtaking. That tent of paper where you can draw things? That's just magnificent. I could imagine myself having fun just expressing myself with the colours they give you. That cloud room seems awesome as well, though it was a little hard for me to imagine it. The Wishing Tree, the Pond of Tears(is that what its called?), Widget's tent, the Illusionists' shows, the Fortune Teller, the contortionist, the cat shows, the acrobats,  OH MY GOD i just love everything. I love that the author tells us that there are many other tents that are yet to be discovered, because it makes me feel like my imagination is limitless as to what could be in those other tents. I can never actually solidify any ideas for them, but the thought of them also being amazing just makes me happy.

It was creepy knowing that this game lasts for decades and decades. It's like two psychopaths decided to mess up two random people's lives, who then gets so many other people involved and now so many lives are at stake depending on who becomes the eventual victor. Creepy, but cool.

When Marco falls in love with Isobel, i actually had put it out of my mind that he and Celia would end up being in love with each other because normally the guy stays with the first girl he loves. Marco was a jerk to build his feelings for Celia while he still has not ended his relationship with Isobel, and i personally thought Isobel had every right to react badly towards it, even though she had a hunch for some time that it might happen. She was just so nice it's sad for it to happen to her.

It was devastating however, when we find out that there can only be one victor, and the way one wins is when the other can no longer endure the challenge; when the other dies.The feels kicked in when i realised that they could not be together because they were opponents. Although i didn't really like the romance in the story(i didn't dislike it either though), it was still charming to read about. I loved how Marco and Celia both find beauty in each others' magic and creativity, even though they were opponents. The ending for them was both haunting but satisfying. I reckon their love had to be built up a little more by Morgenstern for me to really think they'll be happy in the semi-solid, semi-invisible world, but the fact that the circus could continue, that they would still be able to roam around the place they love and finally be together was just nice. It would never be how i expected the book to end(i actually had no expectations at all), and that was decent enough for me to love this book for surprising me over and over again.

The Reveurs. Ah, the Reveurs. The idea that there is an actual fanclub dedicated to the love they have for The Circus of Dreams, is just so cool. It felt like it was a metaphor for people's love towards something common. I was thinking more specifically of me and other people's love for books; how we can talk and write about it with so much passion and how we create new friendships and bonds because of it. The thought that the circus has these kinds of people is really awesome, and it makes me want the circus to be even more real. AND it is so epic that they have a signature to identify themselves; wearing black, grey or white clothes with a sudden hint of scarlet red.

Oh, and i love the Murray twins. I love what they did in the end, i ABSOLUTELY love how we realise that the book was written in a third party perspective because Widget was actually telling the entire story to Alexander! It made perfect sense and i was just really mindblown when i flipped back to the first page to check whether my assumptions were correct.


All in all, this was such a beautiful read. I may have exaggerated a lot in this review, but i think the idea of what's in the book is just so magically enchanting that you just want it to be real so, so much and you'll want others to go through the same adventure. But of course, i do not want you to be disappointed because of expectations after reading my thoughts about it. Just expect it to be kinda bad, and allow Erin Morgenstern to pull you into her world with your own free will. I highly recommend you to read it if you're up for some fantasy, but only if you're a patient reader because this is NOT an action read. It's a beautiful, slow-paced adventure.


  1. This has been in the list of books I want to read in awhile. Sometimes I think the only reason I haven't got it yet is the fact that I resent the fact that it's not in the fantasy section.

    Anyway, hi! I've been looking for other Malaysian bloggers for sometime, and stumbled upon your blog somehow.



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2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge
Kamalia has read 15 books toward her goal of 50 books.