4/5 Fantasy, Contemporary, Magic Circus Competition
A competition was created with two contestants, beginning when they were just children. Spanning decades with the game board a magical circus that only appears at night, The Night Circus explores what strains a game this long would have on the two contestants and all other individuals involved.
The Night Circus has been recommended to me many times, all by people who praise this title up and down, front to back, from the very first scene to the very last word. I can see why people could have this reaction. I would call this book a work of art – yet for myself, even while I was appreciating a sentence and the imagery, the beautiful poetic language, I was wondering when something was going to happen.
The book takes a lot of time to explain this magical landscape focusing in on minute details and feelings, but this drags the pace down. In my opinion, these are the things that determine how you like the book. If you like the imagery and value that over the pacing, you’ll probably give The Night Circus five stars. If you like imagery fine, but would rather something be happening, you’ll probably hate this book.
I’m more in the second group. I consider myself a minimalist writer and reader – meaning I like stuff and try to write stuff that says things in the smallest amount of words possible. However because I am a writer, I think this allows me to appreciate this book from a farther distance than most readers might be able to, so that is why I have given this book four stars rather than something lower.
It took me literally months to finish listening to this book because I felt like no mater how long I listened, not enough was happening. This made the payoff of listening not worth it when I could be listening to music during my exercise or processing my own thoughts during walks in between classes.
I’ve said a lot of negatives so far, so lets get to the good.
Jim Dale was the reader: He has a great voice with a beautiful British accent. I am told he also did at least (if not all) of Harry Potter.
The setting was magical: I could see everything and feel this circus. I might be able to reconstruct this circus, tent by tent, because there were so many details. A Wishing Tree, a clock with hundreds of tiny moving pieces, each shifting so slowly you can’t tell it is moving while looking at it, a girl who can change her clothes with a thought, a boy who can alter his features.
Using you: Most books do not use “you’ because it is really hard to do correctly. With ‘you,’ the challenge is to provide enough detail to connect it to the reader, but leave everything vague enough so the reader isn’t like, “I wouldn’t think that, I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t say that.” The only other thing I can think of right now that does this and does it well is the podcast Welcome to Night Vale in the episode, “The Story of You.” There is also A Series of Unfortunate Events which uses ‘you’ to talk to the reader, but, if I remember correctly (it has probably been a decade), A Series of Unfortunate Events talks at the reader, instead of including the reader as an actual person experiencing the events in the story.
The characters: The characters aren’t bad or good or anything in between, in my opinion. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, disappointed me at the end when a certain thing happened because I was hoping they would be more devious (sorry for being vague but trying not to to include spoilers here). They weren’t quite as unexpected as I would have hoped for. I think there could have been a lot of play with a story like this about the extent people can go under these circumstances, but I wasn’t that impressed.
Perhaps part of the issue I am taking here is because the characters were all in 3rd person so we didn’t get a real intimate look at them. Also, there were so many characters that there wasn’t a very large amount of time spent with any one character.
My favorite character was certainly Bailey, a boy who loved the circus and maybe becomes a little too invested.
The concept: Magical traveling circus that uses that title to introduce magic into the world without the average person knowing magic is real? Cool. Making a circus into a magical competition? Sign me up.
Overall, while I struggled to stay with this because of the incredibly slow pace, I can understand why so many people make shrines to this book. I think any lover of poetic imagery should pick this one, possibly as an audiobook because I can’t imagine Jim Dale doing anything but adding to the story. For those who really love quick moving plots, maybe give this one a pass. This is also a #1 National Bestseller so that is an incredible standing.