Reviewer: Elle Ewok
Rating: 4 Pierogies
Review: I was psyched when BeezusKiddo chose The Night Circus as our next book in our non-SLYBC Book Club. I LOVE stories about dueling Victorian-Era magicians. Yes - there are numerous books and movies on this topic (e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell; and The Prestige etc)
The Night Circus is about two magicians who are bound to compete against one another in a magical contest created by elder magicians that they neither understand nor really care about. Chosen as children, one maintians natural magical talents while the other is taught to perform magic. The stage for the duel is a magical mystery circus that operates only at night and has mind-blowing magical attractions. The magicians duel by trying to outdo one another with circus attractions. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the magicians fall in love. As such, their contributions to the circus mainly become love-tributes to one another.
I could not help but compare The Night Circus to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell as they are both about dueling victorian-age magicians. Obviously, The Night Circus suffered by the comparision. It simply cannot hold a candle to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. That said, it is not a fair comparison because Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a goddamn literally masterpiece. While Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell made me want to shave my head and join a convent so I could devote my life to writing something half as good, The Night Circus made me want to eat a caramel apple and go to a carvnival. One is serious and signficant literature while and the other is a lovely story. That's not to say The Night Circus is not good, however. It is very good for what it is.
The Night Circus doesn't provide much in the way of character development or plot line. While the premise of the book is certainly clever there is no driving narrative. There can't be as there really is no conflict. No one seems to care that much about the "Duel". At all. Furthermore, the characters were undeveloped and one-dimensional. I could care less about any of the characters and what happened to them. That's okay though because this book is about stunning and vivid descriptions of magical feats - and that is enough. The circus is the main and only true character in The Night Circus. The attractions at the circus were imaginative and described beautifully. I was perfectly content to travel through the circus tents and "observe" even without a real plot line or any notable character development. Outside of the circus, the book focuses on elaborate descriptions of the victorian era clothing and food and dinner parties. Yes, it sounds boring and superficial but everything is described so well I didn't care.
Obviously to enjoy this book you have to make peace with the fact that the magical individuals use their extraordinary abilities to make a really cool circus rather than....oh I don't know... curing cancer, or flying or world domination. But I was content to ignore this glaring absurdity and enjoy the circus.
I enjoyed The Night Circus very much but it certainly is not for everyone. My husband would never forgive me if I told him to read this book for example. Somehow I doubt he would enjoy reading about victorian party dresses and exotic flavored creme brulee.