The Night Circus, Whimsy and Spectacle

I had to go and read a book that was hard to describe, didn’t I? At least it has a trailer, to help things along.

This book is about a circus that opens at midnight, filled with all kinds of magic to entertain its audience. The audience can wander between various performances, exploring the circus, rather than have just the one set performance to watch from their seats. This book is also about a deadly game being played out within the circus, and the people pulled into it. It’s about intent, and consequences, and finding a way.

It isn’t in a rush. It takes its time in developing the setting and bringing the action to a conclusion. Its style feels almost whimsical, and it doesn’t tell you where it’s going. Ultimately, this book isn’t about action. A lot of it hinges on atmosphere, and spectacle. It’s the circus itself, the venue, that really stands out. The book never gives too much away about the characters, always feeling one step removed. This serves to make the writing itself feel more mysterious.

Eventually, you begin to find out how people’s lives are changed by contact with magic. Then you begin to find out how people’s lives are destroyed by contact with magic. One moral issue is kind of circumvented, but there are implied reasons for that.

The story isn’t quite told in chronological order. This works, because the story doesn’t depend so much on a linear sequence of events as it does on the whole picture, which is constructed bit by bit. Everything is slowly headed for one point.

If all of this feels frustratingly vague, well, that’s what the writing style calls for, in my opinion.

If you want to get a lot of action or don’t want an extra layer of distance between yourself and the characters, this probably isn’t the book for you. If you’re more interested in writing style, an intricate/bizarre setting, and a slow paced read, this will be a lot more to your liking.

Also of interest is the advertising campaign, which consisted of a browser game that you needed to link to social media to get the most out of. It doesn’t seem to be working the same now, so I could only get the feel for the beginning of the game, but I believe it was deemed a success back when it was meant to be promoting the release of the book.

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2 Responses to The Night Circus, Whimsy and Spectacle

  1. Psycho Gecko says:

    Sounds good. I’ll see if I can find it. Some aspects of it sound similar to House of Leaves, though I’m not entirely sure about the “two lovers threatened with consumption by their passon” part of things.

    • Marie Erving says:

      I personally didn’t think that the romantic portion of the plot was particularly intense; if you do end up reading it, maybe you can let me know if you agree or not.

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