There seems to be two types of people when it comes to The Night Circus: those who deem it the best book ever written, and those who deplore its entire character-driven plot. I find myself somewhere in the middle.
You know how some books start out super slow, but then the pace gets quicker so there’s a sort of payout? Well, this book was sort of the opposite. It started out at a good pace with lots of potential and promise, but then the story became increasingly slow without ever picking up after that. I think the entire disservice to this novel was its blurb. If you are looking for action, a gripping plot, or a fierce battle, then please do not read this book. It is a slow-burner, that uses more descriptive adjectives than it does action verbs, and the plot centers entirely around several characters. This is not a book you can marathon, or flip through the pages quickly, but a book you find yourself reading slowly.
If you’re looking for a romance; I also wouldn’t pick up this book. The romance was never built up, rather it just happened somewhere between half way and three-fourths of the way through. The characters were simply automatically in love. Instead of developing the relationship, Morgenstern decided to describe how things were different between both of the main characters instead of showing us. There were just a lot of things we were just supposed to go along with, like them having written love letters through their magic the whole time, which honestly I don’t even understand how or when that occured. Also, we were supposed to believe there was a battle between them, but at no point did they truly “duel,” or suddenly change their minds and realize they were in love. Both of these things were just told when in reality they were never shown.
Spoiler: I think the most frustrating thing about this book is that its characters felt like they needed to play Romeo and Juliet, when there was never a sense of urgency to begin with. They didn’t have to go through all the trouble of killing themselves, or whatever it is they did, because they could’ve literally just played the game once a year and enjoyed their otherwise freedom the rest of the year.
So why do I have a somewhat high rating when it seems like I actually didn’t like the book? Well, it’s because this book is extremely successful at being atmospheric. I actually felt like I was at the circus: I could feel the characters around me, smell the caramel popcorn air, hear the laughter of children, and despite everything else I kept wanting to read the book just so that I could be in the world a little longer. I truly did like the writing aspect of this novel with its many descriptions, use of minor characters, and unique spread of perspectives from them. In that sense alone the book could get five stars. However, there is that whole mess up at the top that I’ve written to consider, so with that in mind I had to lower the rating.
Overall, if you’re looking for an atmospheric, immersive, detailed story, then feel free to read this book. It reads like a story, like a fairytale, which is not something I see often done. However, if you’re looking for action or plot, maybe even a romance, I would opt out and search for another novel.