Friday, November 18, 2011

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern
November 2011

A book like this is the reason I am wary of over-hyped books.  There's been a buzz about The Night Circus.
Some have called it the next Harry Potter or the next Twilight. There's already a movie planned.  It will make a great movie because the story, for the most part, is good.

Marco and Celia have been raised as pawns in a contest between two magicians. These are real magicians, not merely illusionists.  Prospero ( Henry Bowen) is reunited with his young daughter after her mother dies. It's clear early on that she has supernatural powers. He sends for "the man in grey" (also known as Alisdair) and challenges him to a new contest or game. AH agrees and sets out to find a young ward of his own.  He raises Marco as a virtual prisoner in his home. Every effort and interaction with the boy is to teach him enchantment or magic. Marco studies and reads incessantly.  Prospero teaches his daughter in a more natural way, leading her to discover her abilities on her own. She assists him in his stage shows and later this experience leads her to join Les Cirque des Reves.  As Marco and Celia grow into adulthood, he begins to work for Chandresh Lefevre, who is the creator of Les Cirque des Reves and she is hired to be the illusionist.  Although Celia and Marco are opponents, they end up falling in love.  But, the contest can only end when one of the opponents dies.

The concept of the circus is interesting. It is only open at night and suddenly shows up in a town, only announced by a silver card with the words Les Cirque des Reves and the location.  It doesn't have a main tent with three rings and a ringmaster. Instead, it's a series of tents. Some include performers and others are simply environments for the circus goers to enjoy and marvel at.  The setting is turn of the century, although it wasn't always apparent to me. It could have been set in any age.

The book is written in third person, present tense, which is not easy to carry off and ends up making the reader feel very remote from the action and the characters. Consequently, I didn't really care about the characters. The writing style is also rather choppy. Matched with the narrator of the audiobook, it sometimes sounded like I was being read a list.

Ok, it wasn't that bad, but I became bored pretty quickly. After checking the comments on Amazon I found that several reviewers had the same opinion. So, I've skipped from disc 7 to disk 10, just to see what happens. It's a little more interesting now, but still not impressive.  The narrator is Jim Dale, who a friend of mine loves. He narrated all of the American editions of the Harry Potter series. He really didn't do much for me on this one. It's the only thing I've heard him read. I'll certainly give him another chance, but I think I've just been spoiled by the fabulous Simon Jones.

This book was marketed to adults and my library bought it for the adult collection. However, this is a young adult novel, in my opinion. It will appeal to the Twilight fans for its star-crossed, doomed lovers and to other teens for its magic/fantasy element and it's turn of the century setting.  You could even have a Night Circus party. It's ready made for a Teen Services librarian.

I'll finish listening to it simply to see what happens. If there had been more of a plot rundown on Wikipedia, I wouldn't even finish listening to it.  But I'll be waiting for the movie because Les Cirque des Reves would really be something to see.

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