AtoZ, Blog Challenge, Books, Fantasy Fiction, Women authors

[N] Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern #AtoZ | Book Review |

I don’t remember how I chanced upon this book but I am eternally grateful that I did for Night Circus is that adult fantasy fiction book that I could dream along with. You will have to take my word for it that this is one helluva fantastic fantasy fiction!!!

Title: Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Publication: Vintage

Erin Morgenstern had written the plot of this novel originally as part of three successive NaNoWriMo annual writing challenge and it was converted and published into a novel in 2011. She is an American author who is basically a multimedia artist and this is her first novel. Night Circus won the annual Locus Award for the first novel in 2012 and an Alex Award from the American Library Association.

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Night Circus begins as a Circus of dreams or Le Cirque des Derves which is set up from night to dawn in a black and white striped tent which appear without any warning. This circus travels to major European and American cities in the 19th and early 20th century and has a Victorian style setting to its storyline. The patrons or dreamers of the circus form a group of sorts and always wear B&W clothing with a dash of red to distinguish themselves and also to recognise each other. There are contortionists, future readers, magicians and more that bewitch the patrons, leaving them gasping for more.

“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

This is a tale of two star-crossed lovers who are set across each other to duel with their magical prowesses but each is unaware of who his/her competitor is. The duel is essentially a match of egos of their patrons who were renowned magicians/illusionist of their times but could not settle on which of the two is the greatest. So they would devise this contest to adjudge who is the greatest by each setting forth an apprentice.

“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon . . . is not the dragon the hero of his own story?” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

So we have Celia Bowen who is the daughter of Hector Bowen, also known as Prospero the enchanter, who is a brilliant illusionist as she could turn clothing into birds or was it vice versa? By some trick of fate or a magic gone wrong, Hector turns invisible and Celia is almost an orphan in this setting. She receives her instructions from the ghostly figure who is cruel in his teachings as he repeatedly slices of her fingers for her to heal them magically.

The other is a 9-year-old orphan named Marco Alisdair who is adopted by the mysterious Mr. A.H. who only sees him as a protegé.

“Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

The two alter egos set up the match as a circus where etherealism is the key and both the duelists have to conjure up illusions of the utmost finery. The illusions are based to tease tastes, textures and visual perceptions to the core. Be it a house of mirrors or a labyrinth of clouds, apples dipped in chocolate/caramel and something undefinable by the taste buds but creates a lasting impression on the mind. Beguiling every sense of the viewer is the intention and both Marco and Celia learn to adapt and modify their illusions while the circus is on.

“I would have written you, myself, if I could put down in words everything I want to say to you. A sea of ink would not be enough.’ ‘But you built me dreams instead.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

What the two protegé don’t know is that the contest will go on till one of them dies. Here comes the twist – they both fall for each other and must now work together to devise a way out of this circus dream. It seems none of the participants can opt out – neither by wilfully leaving or by death.

“The most difficult thing to read is time. Maybe because it changes so many things.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

How do they come out of this? Do they manage to save each other or does one of them sacrifice themself for the other? What happens to the circus?

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night circus- fantasy fiction- magical realism - erin morgenstern - book review- book blogger

Lasting Impression on me:

“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.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

Where do I begin for this book is simply enchanting in imagery and visual perceptions. I feel they overtake the tale and have their own standing in the book. Night Circus beguiled me into believing that such a world does exist and I confess to hoping that one day I may visit this circus. The theatrics are described so vividly, they leap out of the paper onto my imagination and refuse to let go.

Erin Morgenstern has brought alive a fantastical world of illusions and magic that plays on the mind long after the last page is turned over. The narration does switch from present day to the past without any warnings; but to me that what introduced surrealism to the plot.

I loved the unassuming manner in which philosophy is dispensed by its characters in this book, making it a part of the illusion. There are references to Shakespeare’s plays which enmesh with the narration with great ease.

The writing is crisp and layered with marvels which are to be unravelled slowly, peeling off one layer after the other. There is rich circus lore entwined with myths and tales that bewitch one into a dream; a dream one doesn’t want to step out of. In fact fantasy is treated as the ultimate need to support reality in this book.

Be warned though of the darker tones in the relationships that are seen in this book; all seem to stem from power and fame rather than love. Only the love of the two protegé seemed to be untainted with ambition making it more genuine than anyone else’s in the tale.

My rating:

An unequivocal 5 ***** and I am waiting with bated breath for her next book.

*This post contains an affiliate link and if you do purchase through it, I will earn a small commission via it *

I bet by now you are convinced I am a fantasy fiction buff to the core; do hang in there as I will be exploring some other genres in this challenge. Whats your favourite genre?


I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.

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Loved this review and would like to have an honest review of your book by me; please drop me a mail on with :

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Look out for tomorrow’s post which is about an intriguing but opulent saga about the Wheel of Time

For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.

Some of my previous posts you might be interested in catching up on

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34 thoughts on “[N] Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern #AtoZ | Book Review |

  1. I have heard and read about this book many times. Always the review leaves me guessing and wanting to grab this. But the price was too much. The last i checked only imported copy was available something around 700… Thank you for reminding me of this gem.. honestly, I can’t really understand the surrealism here, but then, good things are best experienced from reading the book…

    1. Yeah these books are terribly expensive; now you know why I am on a no-buying pact 😉 You need to read this to believe it Pratikshya. Each description will enchant your imagination, leaving you gasping for more!!

    1. Seriously the kitten are precocious and so are the red haired twins who were born to mark the start of the circus challenge. The descriptions in this book are just Uffffff! 🙂

  2. I have seen this book talked about in some book groups on Facebook. Your review has piqued my interest . And that it is a result of NaNoWriMo, is simply awe-inspiring. Will certainly check The Night Circus. Thanks for sharing, Shalini!

    1. Yeah Shilpa; the incredible bit is the NaNoWriMo -cant believe this came out of that! Its an incredible read and the writer doesnt come across as a novice at all.

  3. How beautifully you have explained the book and its characters! Though it’s not my genre, I am tempted to pick it up. That’s how powerful your review is, Shalini!!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words Anshu; feels to good to read that! I am over te moon to know that my book reviews are being liked so much! 🙂

  4. Ok I am sold. Adding it to my list straight away. You know you should be in the marketing department of this book… Your review is so alive and vivid. I feel like reading it straight away.

    1. Wait till you read this book; you will be waxing eloquent like me next. This book is just unbelievable and I am waiting to read her next…..

    1. I just love reading Rohan; its one thing that has been constant in my life since I could read 🙂 Glad to know this review interested you too.

  5. I have heard so much about this book, that it is about time I pick it up. Your review might have just pushed me over the edge.
    Also, I loved the quotes you picked!

    1. I havent even picked the best ones Shanaya; believe me there are tonnes of them in the book. I think you will love it a lot too and I will wait to see your review of this book. Sometimes there are just too many books to read in this world and so so little time 😉

  6. How exciting that this book is a result of the NaNoWriMo! I saw this book at the book store but didn’t pay much attention as I am not a fan of fantasy. But yes, occasionally I do enjoy it. This book sounds intriguing, Shalini! Nice pick. Thank you!

    1. Yes and isnt that incredible. I dont think I have come across any other novel which was written for this challenge. Its a very pleasureable read and can be read umpteen number of times- well atleast by me 😉

  7. I absolutely loveeeeeeeeeee this one! One of my favorite books of all time. I read this books during a very dark phase of my life and the magic and the love in the story helped me sail through it smoothly.

    Totally love this one!

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