I can’t resist a beautiful book cover, especially in a monochromatic, art deco-y design. If you follow me on instagram (@msstephanimichelle) you’ll know I’ve been obsessed with black, white and red colour schemes this month.
So of course I picked up The Night Circus when I was in Waterstones a few months ago.
From the blurb:
‘What kind of circus is only open at night?’
The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads:
OPENS AT NIGHTFALL
CLOSES AT DAWN
As dusk shifts to twilight, tiny lights begin to flicker all over the tents, as though the whole circus is covered in fireflies. When the tents are aglow, sparkling against the night sky, a sign lights up:
LE CIRQUE DES REVES
THE CIRCUS OF DREAMS
The gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.
NOW THE CIRCUS IS OPENS
NOW YOU MAY ENTER
Celia Bowen is the daughter of Prospero the Enchanted, the great illusionist. When she goes to live with him he realises that she has a great talent for magic, and starts to train her. He enters her into a challenge, binding her life to that of his arch-rival, the elusive man known as Mr Grey.
Mr Grey chooses his own protégé Marco, and the game begins. From the seeds of the competition, a novel idea for a circus arises. The circus will be a Night Circus, with a black and white colour scheme. The performers will have individual tents where the patrons can view the world’s greatest performers. The circus will only be open between the hours of dusk and dawn.
Unbeknownst to the patrons, and most of the performers, Celia and Marco are using the circus as the arena for their battle. Who will be crowned the winner, and what will they win?
I really wanted to like this book. It has all the elements that should make it an exciting fantasy novel- magic, drama, romance, mystery – but it’s so disjointed. The writing itself is beautiful and poetic, full to the brim with fantastical imagery, but nothing seems to happen.
The version I read had 629 pages – it took what felt like an eternity to get through them. I could only read twenty to fifty pages at a time, because I found it so slow.
The narrative jumps between lots of different characters, without really establishing any likeable or relatable qualities. There just isn’t enough time spent on a single character to engage the reader. Bailey, a farm boy who becomes involved in the circus, is the most likeable character, but you barely spend any time with him until near the end of the book.
There’s also the issue of “the game” or challenge, or whatever it’s called – the purpose is kept secret for way too long. The rules and consequences aren’t revealed until the final section of the book, so you’re not really invested in it. There’s no sense of urgency.
This is a beautiful, stylish, very slow novel. If you like intricate, descriptive prose you will probably love it, but if you want something plot or character driven I would recommend reading something else.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.