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Publisher's Summary

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

©2011 Erin Morgenstern (P)2011 Random House

Critic Reviews

"The Night Circus made me happy. Playful and intensely imaginative, 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)
"Self-assured, entertaining debut that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic…. Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Debut author Morgenstern doesn't miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love... a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom. This is an electric debut on par with Special Topics in Calamity Physics." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • Andrea
  • Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
  • 09-22-11

This novel did not match the hype around it.

Not sure what the hype is about. It was a really detailed book with a lot of descriptions and some were really interesting, some not so much. It just ended up being OK. Not great, not wonderful. Not sure I would read it again though. And I found that disappointing. I think a circus setting is marvelous and the idea of magical people controlling it was interesting too but was never made into anything that wowed me. The storey disintegrated into a love story about two people we really didn't know much about personality wise and didn't care that much about. They were not the most interesting people at the circus but the interesting ones didn't get their stories told at all. Over all it was like a novel trying to pull in trends from other books that were big hits. Steampunk, wizards and magic, forbidden love, etc, etc. It was almost like the writer was trying so hard to hit all the trends that they forgot to write a good story. The descriptions of some of the stuff were interesting but descriptions of settings do not a good novel make unless they make the STORY more interesting. This just didn't grab me. But the narrator was great!

145 of 176 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • San Diego, CA
  • 10-25-11

Magically Realistic

This is a fascinating and unusual story. It fuses the golden age of the late 1890 with romantic magical realism …think Cirq du Soleil meets Moulin Rouge. The writing is luxurious and brilliantly evocative. I love the way the author takes time to build landscapes of the imagination. At one level you can enjoy this like a Breughel or LS Lowry painting and lose yourself in the intricately drawn and mysterious detail. At another level it’s a strange love story, or the tale of a struggle between two brilliant but flawed men.
In narrative terms it’s not a page turner and that’s just fine. The names and locations can be a little distracting and the central plot is so obfuscated by the fabulous literary embroidery I can see why some find it too much to struggle through, the cloth is just too rich. However the beauty or execution in of its self makes the journey worthwhile.
Whilst I hate traditional circus of clowns and lions under the big top I have always loved the dark spectacle of Cirq du Soleil. The author invites you peer through the flap in the tent or press your nose up against the store window of a Victorian toy shop and wonder at the treats inside.
The performance by Jim Dale is very good, he’s always great value. One slight distraction is that the voices he uses for the protagonists are essentially the same as the he used for Ron and Ginny Weasley when he performed the Harry Potter books…which can be a little distracting. These are very minor complaints, barely enough to warrant the deduction of a star. This is an unusual and captivating story, beautifully told, a must listen pick.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Spellbound

a page-turner, fascinating, as if I myself linger to each one of its tents 'til the strike of dawn and, Jim Dale is impeccable!

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

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Fascination.

Any additional comments?

Beautiful in its delicate intimacy. The prose draws one in with a structure that evades the jarring bullishness of "sudden action" fiction. Instead the author lets the story build slowly; "action" is treated with the same tempo as any other scene. As one listens, it is easy feel a little lost in the maze of time lines, characters, places and and emotions, but I think that is what the author had in mind. A book that tells a dream like story in a way that makes you the reader, or listener in this case, feel like you are witnessing the events in a dream. Each description is so detailed yet is only a snapshot of a given view, as if you focused for only a moment on one object in time and space and then moved on into the next. This book is uncommon in its power to antagonize the imagination to "see" the images in the same way we see images in a dream. The story line itself was a touch to well known for me, as a codification of Shakespearean tragedy, Greek, and Modernistic redemptive tragedy and I could see the tales that the author drew from to form the basis of this work. The story does travel at one speed never going faster or slower from beginning to end, yet that was what was intended to maintain that dream-like feeling. This is an excellent snowy night book, or a nice glass of mulled cider on the porch in Autumn kinda day. <br />A word about Jim Dale. I wonder if I was not the only one who had a few minutes disorientation when I heard Hermione Granger's "voice" come from Celia Bowen's mouth. Or Albus's voice from Alexander. The voices were well chosen and Jim went to the extremes of his talent to maintain the beauty and power of the dream. I don't think anyone could have done this story better....well maybe lLoyd James or Gerard Doyle could have given it a good run. You will have to forgive me because Jim narrated the Potter series and for over 200 hours I heard Celia's voice used for Hermione, it takes a little bit to transition :) Well done Jim!

74 of 91 people found this review helpful

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Major disappointment

This book has gotten very sterling reviews, so I found myself surprised by the strength of my dislike for it. In my view, it was a series of descriptions of the very "magical" circus connected by an undercooked plot. As for the love story--both characters were so dull, I had little interest in what became of them. Even though the word magical appeared countless times in this book, I found it was far from it.

80 of 99 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynne
  • United States
  • 03-02-15

Hands down, the best book I've listened to...

... in a very long time. I've recommended it to everyone I know and haven't gotten a single response other than that they loved it - and it doesn't matter whether they like war stories and Westerns (my husband) or Lord of the Rings (my son) or Tuesdays with Morrie (my daughter) or PD James novels (my mom). Now, how can you resist a book that has that kind of following?

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle
  • Seattle, WA
  • 10-25-11

The hype hurt it.

I want to be careful not to be too hard on this book. It was a good book. It had magical moments. I think it would have fare much better without the hype. With this book being pushed right and left, I expected an ending that truly sparkled. The ending was FINE, but I had hoped for more.

I would recommend listening to this book, but I would strongly suggest letting it be just a book as if you had never heard anything about it. If you're willing to just be entertained and enjoy the circus, you will likely be happy.

43 of 53 people found this review helpful

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Exciting Atmosphere, ok story.

I want to visit the night circus. Every single tent attraction created a vivid picture in my head and had me longing to see stripped tents setting up in empty fields. Erin Morgenstern is a fabulous writer. The main story circles around two characters and the rules of some esoteric game.

Each of the characters was well written, but their interactions did not make this book for me. I thought the direct story line was ok, but nothing on the level that the hype led me to believe. The reason to read this book is for the magical atmosphere. Each side story and new character builds on this world and makes you want to be a part of it.

Jim Dale did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life and was not a distraction.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 10-23-11

Sadly Overrated

The advance hype drowned out the experience. It was weak story with little character developoment. It turned out to be just an average book read by a brilliant narrator.

26 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • KK
  • Washington, DC
  • 07-18-12

Captivating

Any additional comments?

A friend of mine suggested this book to me, and in her review, she noted that this is a book for people who liked Water for Elephants but didn't like the ending. After reading this book, I think that description is pretty much spot on.<br/><br/>This book has similar themes to Water for Elephants. You have the circus and the romance and the time periods aren't too far off. But after that, I would say the comparisons stop. The Night Circus is much more mysterious and mystical than Gruen's book, and Morgenstern does an excellent job of captivating you in the story much like the patrons in her book are captivated by this circus that appears out of nowhere and disappears again almost as if it never was.<br/><br/>I wish that there had been a bit more emphasis on the romantic element. There was a little something lacking in the development of the relationship between the two magicians that I felt would have made the story a bit more cohesive. I also wanted to learn a bit more about Marco's brand of magic which was markedly different from his opponents "natural" talent, but alas that remains a mystery to the end.<br/><br/>I read some Goodreads reviews, particularly the bad reviews, and I noticed a theme that's valid and worth a warning. The description for this book uses phrases/words like "fierce competition" "duel" and "remarkable battle." These phrases are an exaggeration. There are no big battles and the competition isn't really a competition. It's pretty much the exact opposite of that which explains some reader's disappointment. This book has a dreamy quality to it that leaves you feeling a bit like you're floating in a pool of water. It is rich in description and dialogue, not action. So if you are looking for action, look elsewhere.<br/><br/>Audiobook review: I loved this guy's voice. It was the perfect match for this story.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful