Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Format: eBook (epub)
With beautiful, fluid writing, vivid descriptions, and continual hints to a bigger mystery, The Night Circus weaves a pretty (but not stunning) Fantasy tale set in the 19th Century.
This is a book with a very specific aesthetic. I can't quite place my finger on it, but it's almost where goth and steampunk collide, with a touch of lolita, wherever that is. It is less about the circus than the feel of this specific circus, which buys into that aesthetic wholly. While you don't have to buy into it, I feel like if you don't harbor some appreciation for it somewhere, this would be either a dull or droll read.
That aesthetic is used as the vehicle to tell a rather derivative story that screams its intentions from the beginning of the book, even though it's not "unveiled" until closer to the middle. It feels like almost everything is dragged in pieces or whole from something else, and while the allusions are often referenced and attributed, at times I found myself wishing for something more original. At its heart, this is yet another story about tragic, star-crossed lovers.
While the story felt slightly stale, the prose itself was well formed and beautiful. At first, I felt like the pacing was too slow, but once I realized how much time was passing in the book, I realized how stunningly deceptive the pacing was; its languid rate shared the circus' feeling of timelessness, even though time was still marching past.
There are sections in second person, which describe the circus. On one hand, I felt like they were nice little descriptors that added to the tale, but on the other hand, the use of "you" quite destroyed my immersion every time. I have yet to find a story that uses second person to my satisfaction. If anyone can share one, I'd love to hear it. This one certainly didn't fit the bill.
Much of this story was well done, and it was certainly a pleasure to read. Towards the beginning of the book, I thought I'd like it more than I did, but as the plot showed itself to be more and more derivative, it started to leave a bad taste in my mouth. That's not to say I didn't like it; 3 stars is not a bad review. However, I think with the world building and setup, it could have been much, much more.