How to know if you will love The Night Circus

Working on world building? Do I have the book for you!

I don't believe it's just in NYC--it would seem everyone, everywhere, is talking about The Night Circus and how it is the best book that ever happened to them. Ever. Like, whoa. Accelerate the presses and pre-order the DVD of the movie adaptation that hasn't been made yet. OMG. Can't wait. Squee, squee, squee.

(Yes, I realize I sound like the circus Grinch. I actually also had my first incident of boot-on-subway-door violence today. Not a swift kick, but still. And not to worry, everything was fine. I was not charged with, say, defacement of public property. No doors were dented. And you would have been miffed, too, if the subway doors didn't open for thirty full seconds, thus preventing you from transferring to the express train across the platform.)

I first heard about the book at this year's BEA--and remembered it because it came with a free bag of (perfectly fine--I can hardly expect anyone to give out hundreds of bags of, say, the Jacques Torres caramel corn with dark chocolate) popcorn that sat in our office freezer for weeks. Edible advertising. Excellent.

And I finally sat down to read it last week.

The world Morgenstern has created is extraordinary. The book's design is, fittingly, gorgeous--even if the interior stripes can make one dizzy after too much staring. And this is the prettiest book world I've seen in a very long time. It's Victorians, travel, an enchanted night circus, and confections that the Food Network can only dream about. It's enjoyable. It's vivid. I won't soon forget it. I loved the twins, Bailey, the magic kittens, the imagery.

As an added bonus, it reminds you of words like "exsanguination" in a manner that prevents their future relegation to second-string vocabulary. Yes, you too can have conversations like this:

Me to a friend this weekend: I was dumb and put my red sneakers in the washer. Now they look exsanguinated.

My friend: ...


Why, then, did I nearly put the book down without finishing it?

I did finish--and I'm glad I did--but then I saw on GoodReads that there's a vocal minority that can't stand the work for the simple fact that it's approximately 80 percent description.

This stuff costs $8.50 a bag. And, even on my publishing budget, I think it's worth every artery-clogging penny. Yes. It's that good. 

So. How do you know if the work will annoy or enchant you?

Think of its emphasis as divided up like a circus candy apple:
  • Extraordinary world building/atmosphere/concept--the apple
  • Writing--still quite good, mind you--the caramel
  • Characters--the candies stuck into the caramel on the apple
  • Plot--the thin popsicle stick that will probably break before you finish said apple
Will that work for you? Maybe.

Or, if you liked The Science of Sleep--which is, like The Night Circus, pretty much (and I'm not giving away anything here that you can't assume from the book jacket) Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl explore strange magical world, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl back through magical means, The End (or, in TSoS's case, Fin). One contains Le Cirque des Rêves; the other, La Science des rêves.

I confess I prefer the latter to the former--even though I think most (if not all) things Victorian are very pretty.

If you're especially fond of magic, circuses, Victorian items, you'll probably like this.

If you require pat, perfectly pinned down resolutions, explanations, and plot points, you may not.

If you're a fan of impossible love stories in any form, put this on your TBR list.

If you're a linear thinker and need linear narrative, this is not good for you. I went back and forth about the book's ordering, and have since concluded that it's necessary, even if it requires some flipping back and forth to figure out what happened when.

Tell me what you think. I can honestly see both points of view.

Also, it's possible I'll wake up tomorrow on the other side of the bed, start clamoring for sooner movie release date, proclaim myself a rêveur, start selling scarlet scarves on Etsy, and whisper sweet nothings to subway doors. You never know.


Claudia said...

Thanks for the warning. I'm still suffering from the after-effects of the tedium that was Water for Elephants, so I think I'll be avoiding anything circus-related for the next decade or so. Add in 'magical worlds' and I think I'm coming out in a rash.

I guess that means I'll never find out what exsanguinated means. All in all - a very helpful review! Thanks.

Amanda J. said...

I absolutely loved it. It's bigger on getting to know the characters and the worldbuilding than the plot, but I enjoyed that. I found everything about this book refreshing and have been trying to get everyone to read it lol. I'm glad you made it to the end. :)

Eileen said...

This is on my list but I have a WIP with a touch of the circus so I am avoiding it until I have a draft done. So many good books, not nearly enough time. Read, In the Name of the Star- read that if you have a chance. Very fun.

Margie said...

I had to keep going back and checking out the time line, but it ended up being totally worth it. My favorite characters were Bailey and the twins--totally loved their storyline and it's what kept me turning the page. Bailey's infatuation with the circus fueled my infatuation.

The ending, to me, was reminiscent of Like Water For Chocolate. Another mag read.

Ron Smith said...

It's on my nightstand right now and I can't wait to dive in. I have to finish Lev Grossman's The Magician King first.

You're right, though. The cover is exquisite. I love literary novels with a touch of the fantastical: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Magicians, The Stolen Child, all great stuff.