The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Posted July 14, 2017 by Amber in Reviews / 5 Comments

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Digital Audiobook narrated by Jim Dale

Published by Random House Audio on September 13th 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Romance
Length: 401 pages Source: Audible

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Night Circus is an immediate favorite.

This book has been on my TBR since November 2011, two months after it released.  I am kicking myself SO HARD because it took me six years to get around to it.  It is magical, breathtaking, intriguing.  It is hands-down the most beautiful romance I’ve ever read.  This could be a very long review as I extol endless praises upon this story.  Ye have been warned.




Celia.  Marco.  Horace.  Alexander.  Bailey.  Poppet.  Widget.  Isobel.  Tara.  Lainie. Chandresh.  Friedrick.  Ethan.  Tante Padva.  Tsukiko.  Everyone.  Everyone, everyone, everyone.  Every single character in this book is bright, textured, and mysterious.  They are all glowing.  Every minute detail stands out.  The subtle hand movements, the shadows, the clothing, the way they hold themselves, the glimmer or dullness in their eyes.  Everything about each and every character in this book is intriguing.  Even the minor ones you only see for a chapter or two, like Elizabeth the Rêveur or Bailey’s sister Caroline.

My favorite character in this book was Bailey.  I know he doesn’t have the pizzazz of Celia or Marco, but there was a je ne sais quoi that made him the biggest mystery of them all.  He felt like a standing stone around which the entire circus revolved.  Chandresh’s flair was excellent.  Celia’s imagination, Marco’s precision… all excellent.  Tsukiko’s mystery.  In my opinion, though, it’s Bailey’s childlike enthusiasm, wide-eyed innocence, and normality in contrast that brings everything else to life.  I love him.

Poppet and Widget are also excellent.  And I love how the crux of the story depends on Isobel.  Just… all of them.  I love them all.



The world is magical.  Never once does the Victorian setting make this story feel inaccessible.  The world itself is the circus, and even though there are excursions into tea shoppes and estates and farms, the black and white tents of the circus call the reader back again and again.  The magic is subtle and beautiful, nothing too big and flashy.  The rules are well explained through the students’ training.  From Celia’s seance sessions to the stuffy apartment where Marco studies, everything is distinct and well-visualized.  Even Tsukiko’s brief history at the end of the book shows a world where time is fluid and moments are eternal, places alive.  The balance is perfect.



I think the story is the aspect where most people will criticize.  Morgenstern takes the reader’s through a loop, misdirecting interest into the challenge when the story is so much bigger than that.  Personally, I don’t mind the outcome of the challenge, and I have even more respect for the story knowing that it is bigger than just two people.  Like I said above, I think this is ultimately the greatest love story I’ve ever read.  It’s not an adventure, not a coming-of-age story.  It’s not a battle of good and evil.  It is all of these things rolled up into something greater and should not be taken solely as any one of its parts.

Writing / Narration


The pacing is, admittedly, slow.  At the beginning, this is frustrating, but as the story gets its tendrils around you and you are sucked in, the pacing is perfect.  In fact, near the end I found myself frustrated that it was going so quickly and was I nearly finished.  The words, though.  Erin Morgenstern knows how to weave magic with her wording.  It flows so beautifully that I would read anything she writes.  Anything.  Her grocery list.  You can tell that every word she has chosen in this story has been carefully mulled over and considered, and the effect is that her words are as magical as the circus.

Morgenstern uses every sense masterfully.  Scent and sound and taste, as well as sight and touch.  I feel like scent and taste are so rarely used in fiction… and she leaves no sense unattended.

In regards to narration, Jim Dale does a masterful job, as always.  You can hear the pompousness of Horace Bowen and the stubbornness of the Murray twins.  He has done an exemplary job narrating The Night Circus.

Personal Thoughts


This book has done something few new books I read have managed:  it jumped into my top ten.  Granted, my top ten isn’t illustrious, but it’s a hard place to get into.  I was so transported by this book, I feel genuinely cheated that Le Cirque Des Rêves is fiction.  I go between moments of wanting express eternally my endless affection for this illustrious piece of work, and moments when I gape stupidly at a loss for words.  It’s beautiful.  I love it.  I don’t know what else to say.


The Breakdown
Personal Enjoyment
Overall: four-half-stars


First Sentence

“The circus arrives without warning.”


Some of My Favorite Quotes

“Have you tried the cinnamon things?” Poppet asks. “They’re rather new. What are they called, Widge?”

“Fantastically delicious cinnamon things?”

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”

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

“The most difficult thing to read is time. Maybe because it changes so many things.”

“Everything I have done, every change I have made to that circus, every impossible feat and astounding sight, I have done for her.”


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5 responses to “The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Oooh this reminds me how much I need to read this!!😂 I’m hanging out to try it on audio too (I hopefully can get it from the library!) because I’ve heard it has lots of lush prose and I always do better hearing that than reading it myself. 😂 And omg I’m so happy for you that you loved it so much!! Finding a truly excellent novel is just the best feeling of them all. <3

    • You should see if in AU they have anything like Overdrive! It’s this digital lending service through the library where you can borrow e-files (ebooks, audiobooks) on an app on your phone/tablet/computer and you don’t have to travel or, ugh, CDs. 🙂

  2. Great review Amber! I absolutely loved The Night Circus. I read it about 3 years ago and have been meaning to reread it for the longest now, but my TBR is screaming for my attention!
    I definitely loved the romantic twist of the novel that brings together the fates of the two protagonists by the end.
    I look forward to reading more from you in the future…Happy Reading 🙂

    • Hi Delphine! I feel your pain on the TBR pile – mine is the same way. Luckily for me, this gem was on the top. I hope you do get to it eventually, it’s very beautifully written. 🙂