Last night, I finished “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern just like I promised to in this post (see, I actually finish things). Since this is my first installment of “What Adam’s Reading,” let me explain how I’m going to do this: a detailed narrative of my thoughts on the book is below and a succinct, bulleted list is further down, for those of you that just want to get to the meat of things. Expect similar outlines in the future.
The basic premise of this novel is that two young magicians are pitted against each other in a setting of striped circus tents, dazzling performances by high flying acrobats and a towering bonfire. Now, I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too: this is going to be an awesome battle full of clever charms, magical curses and outstanding wit that will only result in the death of one of the opponents. It was with disappointment and intrigue that I flipped through the first couple of chapters and learned that it’s not the case.
Instead, this story takes a more shakespearian course by chronicling the tortured romance of the two main characters a.k.a. it’s more “Romeo and Juliette” than “Harry Potter.” (Don’t think I just gave away the whole plot because you knew they were going to fall in love. It’s a main guy and a main girl, what do you think is going to happen?!)
In a sense, it’s a very unique and untapped way of looking at the unlimited world of magic that hasn’t been explored with such nuance in a long time. In much of the same way that Anne Rice redefined the classic vampire with “The Vampire Chronicles,” Morgenstern provides a new twist on a genre that has been dominated by Harry Potter for the past fifteen years. Don’t get me wrong, I think Harry Potter is awesome and I’ve read the whole series multiple times, but it’s refreshing to see that authors can still provide a fresh point of view.
At close to 400 pages, this book sounds like a fairly big brick to tackle but the shortness of the chapters makes for a very fast-paced read that will have you flipping pages well past your bed time. Not only that, there are two narratives that are intertwined throughout the storyline that make you anxious to see how they will collide and, at the speed they’re going, the outcome seems similar to two train chugging toward each other at full power. The ending isn’t quite as dramatic as you might expect, but it will tug at your heartstrings just a little bit.
An interesting fact about this book is that I picked it up thinking of it as the next young adult sensation but after reading a few interviews with Morgenstern, I learned that she doesn’t consider it that way at all. Instead, it’s meant to be an adult fantasy novel that stacks up against the classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and the infamous “Lord of the Rings” (or LOTR for all you fanatics).
In that light, I would give this book a B+. It’s a great read with a creative plot that gives you a few twists and turns but at the end of the day, it lacks the complexity and subtle emotion that a lot of adult novels provide and readers come to expect.
- Grade: B+
- What it’s about: Two magicians that play a magical game designed to test their abilities.
- Who should read this book: Adults and teens that enjoy a whimsical, fantasy plot that is grounded in the world of the late 1800s.
- When you should read it: At a time when you’re looking for a light, entertaining respite from heavier subject matter and thicker novels.
- Where to find it: Amazon.com for $17.
Have you read it? What were your thoughts?
PS: I’m going to post all my book reviews to this page, so check back regularly for additions to the list.