Hey, hey, I'm back! Yay! I read like a fiend over break, so I'm going to write reviews and try to get back on the weekly posting schedule! I've missed blogging. :) So without further ado, the review:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Rating: PG-13; 5 stars
Summary: Imagine a circus that only opens at night, with monochrome tents that belie the colorful performances within. Inside the tents—feats you never thought possible: a garden made of ice, a labyrinth of clouds, magicians, fortune tellers. Welcome to that circus; welcome to Le Cirque Des Rêves. Within this circus, meet two dueling magicians, each vying for the upper hand in magnificent feats. Meet the only people born within the circus: Poppet and Widget. Meet the enigmatic masterminds behind the whole affair. And stay awhile, enjoy yourself. You don't know when the circus will be in town again.
While you're here, though, pay no attention to details that don't really seem to fit. After all, the competition fueling this circus is really none of your concern...oops, guess the cat's out of the bag, now. :P
Opinions: Good God, I loved this book. By the time I was twenty pages in, I was recommending it to friends. It is so different from almost everything else I've read. There is a certain magic contained in the prose itself that makes what it describes seem all the more real. This is Morgenstern's first book, and after The Night Circus, I can't wait to see what else she comes up with.
I think one of the things I really liked was the shifting perspective in the book. The book shifts between the stories of various circus people and second person accounts of the reader in the circus. I think those little bits are my favorite. They really drew me into the world that the book created. Similarly, Morgenstern deftly manages a large cast of characters without confusing the reader (or at least, she didn't confuse me). Even though the story jumps around a bit with characters, I didn't find myself lost (especially once I started paying attention to the dates at the top of the chapters. They're kind of important). I found myself caring about nearly all the characters (though I will admit that Poppet and Widget were my favorites)
I love Morgenstern's genre-bending: The Night Circus is a fantasy novel that reads like literary fiction. Or you could say that it's a literary novel with a little magic (for lack of a better term) thrown in. The writing style is definitely more literary in nature, but the book does throw fantasy around quite a bit, and I don't think it would be far off to think of it in part as historical fiction. After all, time and period is quite important to the plot.
If I thought I loved this book while I was still reading it, the ending completely blew my mind. I so wasn't expecting what happened. I think that anyone, even if they aren't particularly enjoying the book, will really appreciate the final twist.
So...ratings, ratings, ratings! Clearly I loved this book, so the 5-star rating is not unexpected at all. However, I do have a feeling that this is one of those books you either love or hate, so fair warning there. As for the PG-13, there is a bit of violence in this book. There's also some sensuality. I also think that a reader under 13 (and many readers under 16 or 17) would have a very hard time getting through the writing itself; Morgenstern clearly appreciates the craft of writing, and the descriptions can make things a little slow going at times.
In short, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I will say that some people won't like it. And if you don't like incredibly detailed and poetic prose, this probably isn't the book for you. However, I especially recommend this for readers of commercial fantasy, because I found this to be a very interesting bridge between literary and genre fiction. This book was highly enjoyable, and is easily one of my top books of the year.