My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The circus arrived without warning. I am a reveur.
That unfortunately isn’t entire great, nor is it bad. Yes, I was swept up in the story, but I always felt like an outsider. As a reveur, I saw more than the average circus goer, but I never felt like a part of the circus. I was kept at arm’s length and while that got me the story, it didn’t take me into it. I wish that The Night Circus left a stronger impact on me. I enjoyed the story though I didn’t love it. The last 100 pages I binged, reading well into the night when I should have gone to bed. It took a while or the book to hook me, but when I did, I was on the line.
There are two hearts of this story. There is Bailey. Then there’s Celia. Bailey is young and unsure of where his life wants to go. There’s a light to his character. You want things to go well for him and his home life leaves much to be desired. Thus when hes reunited with Poppet you are caught up not just with experiencing the circus as it is a place of wonder, but also in how sweet the pair (trio with Widget) are together. Bailey comes to life at the circus.
As for Celia, I felt that she carried the entire story. Without her there would have been no story. We met her as a young girl. We saw her grow stronger. It was easy to get swept away with her abilities and illusions. She fell in love and you could see why. Most of all, she loved the circus. She loved the circus so much and by the end of the novel I wish the circus to be saved, mainly because she felt so strongly about it. Yes, there were times that I wish we had more of her character and could understand her better, but I received enough to connect.
Marco on the other hand was more distant, despite being highlighted nearly as much. Marco felt idealistic and fleeting. It was understandable that Celia would feel so uncertain by Marco’s intentions. One moment he’s lovingly doting over Isobel, the next pouring his soul into the circus, and then suddenly wanting nothing more than to be with Celia. Yet, I could not hate him. I just didn’t feel close to him. Not like I felt close to Celia.
Which is why the romance element of the story felt so rushed. Their first scene together when they realized they were competitors was truly the best. My heart swelled as they confronted each other with awe. There was no ill will between them, but admiration. There was teasing as they wished to be closer to each other, but couldn’t. I wanted more of that. I didn’t get it though. Yes, there were other scenes and they were sweet, but didn’t hold that same draw between the characters. Unfortunately, this romantic element wasn’t played upon until so late in the book that they didn’t have much opportunity for their relationship to grow.
The sole motivator of both the circus and the novel was a competition. Very early in the book, Celia was enlisted to be a competitor in a challenge. She would have an opponent and she was expected to win. The competition would be in a public venue. There were no rules and as a reader it seemed like a nebulous endeavor. Heck, even after finishing the book and explicitly hearing the origin and goal of the competition, I don’t see why it was composed in the way it was. For a large chunk of the novel in the beginning I was simply reading, not because I cared for the characters or what was happening, but because I wanted to know what the hell the competition was for and what the parameters were. After reading it, I know why they were never plainly laid out for us as the reader. It was simply that the competition was too flimsy. Once you start thinking about how it only ends when one dies or how it was about which school of magic was better you wonder why it was so urgent. Why the creators of the competition didn’t simply allow it to play? Why people had to die? If they could live lifetimes and their competitors each wielded different magic, why could they not be together? It simply made Celia’s and Marco’s father figures come off as petty men who care nothing for people with too much time on their hands. Thus the ending of the story felt like a major let down because it felt too inconsequential with stakes too high to support the endeavor.