Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Publisher's Summary:
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.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart. 
From Audrey Niffenegger (Author of "The Time Traveler's Wife"):
"The Night Circus made me happy. Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for, and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty, and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book."

An instant selling point for me was the Narrator. Jim Dale was the voice of Harry Potter - all seven novels - all 120 hours of Harry Potter novels. Mr Dale's production of the Harry Potter series is a bar to which I hold all audiobooks up to. I'm reasonably sure that Mr. Dale could make a narrated version of War and Peace riveting and magical. That being said, even though it's been years since I listened to the Harry Potter series, I was initially very distracted by Harry's narrator to the detriment of The Night Circus.The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern deserves to be judged on it's own merits though - and it's worthy of standing alone. The novel shifts between time-periods: Various dates in the past, to the present and back to the past again. In audiobook format I had a hard time following the shifts in time (unclear if this is a product of fragmented listening, the audio format or the writing of the novel). As a result I ended up listening to this novel twice because I didn't think I could review it fairly after the first listen. The potential was there from the beginning and I had to determine if the threads could be woven together neatly.

The second listen was significantly better than the first with the concepts tying up neatly. I appreciated the characters more on the second listen - picking up depth and humanity I'd missed the first time through. Don't misunderstand me, the first listen was enjoyable - it is no Harry Potter, the similarities end with Jim Dale, the storyline is somewhat predictable, with a contest that can have but one victor from two sympathetic and likable characters. but the effort to get from beginning to end was enjoyable. The concept of The Night Circus is original, the writing above-average and the narration superb.

In the end I'll recommend The Night Circus - 3.5/4.0 on a 5 point scale. If The Night Circus is 'your kind' of fiction you'll probably love it - If your curiosity isn't piqued by the publisher's summary, you probably won't enjoy the novel. That being said, I think that The Night Circus is a perfect young adult novel - one PG-13 sex scene, no violence a nice tidy ending.

The Night Circus was written by Erin Morgenstern and narrated by Jim Dale. The Night Circus was published by Random House Audio. The Night Circus was released in hardcover and audiobook format on 9/13/2011 and has a runtime of 13 hours 39 minutes.

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