When my book club Club Fantasci chose its first “Book of the Month,” we had quite the list to go through and pick from. For some reason after discovering this book at a local mom & pop bookstore, it really stuck out to me. The premise was very intriguing, the colors brought to mind what I thought would be a sinister plot and for some reason it kept bringing the movie “Something Wicked This Way Comes” to my mind (a favorite from childhood) also a very popular novel by Ray Bradbury from 1962.
What I got out of the novel was not what I expected. Although I loved the premise of the book, the book itself didn’t stand up to what it could have been. Author Erin Morgenstern did turn out a good book for her first novel without a doubt. It has plenty of imagination and creativity. What I felt was missing was any real bond to the characters or any real attachment to the outcome of the love story because that is essential what “The Night Circus” is, a love story.
It starts off with two young children Celia and Marco who are unwittingly looked into a life or death challenge that goes on for their entire life. They know nothing about it, how it works, whom it’s against or when it ends. They just exist and are in a combat of sorts against each other until into their adult hood they start to figure out who their opponents are and the stakes if the challenge is lost.
Along the way, a cast of characters again that you develop no attachment to pepper the story with little bits of their involvement here and there. Two characters die and you don’t really even know or care who they are although they are at least partially integral to the circus itself. The story jumps back and forth in time with nothing but a tiny sub-script line at the top of each chapter to let you know of the time shifts and if you are like me and extremely busy, it becomes very hard to keep that all in order as when I am able to read, I read in spurts and very rarely for hours at a time.
As Celia and Marco grow up and figure out they are pitted against each other in this challenge they had no choice in participating in, they fall in love and of course they have to figure out a way to be together upon discovering that the only way to win the challenge is to be the last to survive. It’s a challenge of endurance, who can last the longest before finally giving up because they can’t bear it anymore emotionally.
I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say it ends very quickly and very anti-climatically. I ended the book thinking to myself how completely unsatisfying it was to read. I do love the premise, I love the potential, but I don’t feel it was reached here. Erin Morgenstern is a talented writer; I think her ability to describe detail is very good. Her imagination is fantastic. I just think this story was a bit rushed and the ending was not thought out well to me. There was not enough character development to care about the outcome and the switching between first and second person was a bit off-putting.
All in all I would give it about three out of 5 stars. I would read another book by the author, but admittedly it would probably be after getting through all my other ones first.