Audiobook Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

22 09 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Read by Jim Dale

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 39 Mins

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Don’t worry about all the book comparisons, The Night Circus is a beautifully written novel that stands on its own. It truly does what a good fantasy novel should, taking it’s readers on a trip full of wonder and magic.

Grade: A-

I made myself a promise before listening to The Night Circus that under no circumstances would I compare the book to any other book or series. The tag "The Next…[Insert Popular Book Here]" would not appear in my review at all. You see, it’s all the rage nowadays to compare a new book to a previous phenomena and I am not going to get drawn into the comparison melee. It’s one thing to say that a book will appeal to fans of a certain author or series, I mean, heck, that how we all make recommendations but to put a sticker on a book calling it the second coming of some classic book rarely does anyone a true service. Sometimes, I truly wish that we could choose our books in a bubble, without any sort of hype or preamble. I know this is unfeasible, books need to be marketed, and one of the best marketing techniques is the hyperbolic comparison. So, I am willing to live within the system, although not so willing to contribute to it. So, if you haven’t heard of Erin Morgenstern’s new Fantasy novel, you probably have one of the bubbles that I am so jealous of. Everyone in the book promoting business has been raving about it, and I being a person who can be affected by hype decided to take a trip to the circus as well. Just hoping there are no evil clowns.

The Night Circus is a fantastic tale of two young magicians, Celia and Marco, forced into a magical competition by their wards without truly understanding the consequences or rules. The venue for the competition is The Night Circus, a mysterious circus that seems to appear without warning in towns across the globe. The Night Circus is a beautifully written novel full of lush images and crisp prose. There is an air of the whimsical in this novel that transports you into another place. You can almost feel the magic, smell the perfumes in the air and taste the caramel drizzled popcorn. Yet, underneath all the beauty is a truly sinister undercurrent, a dark side to the story that bleeds into the lives of those involved in the circus. It’s this dark side that intrigued me, and made this novel truly stand out for me. To be honest, without this side to the story, I may have found it all too sugary sweet, with precocious twins, forbidden romance, and magical displays. Yet, Morgenstern was able to keep the story grounded by reminding the reader that despite the wonder of the circus, everything has a price. While the central story revolved around Celia and Marco, a third story involving a young farm boy named Bailey was what I connected with the most. In some ways, he gave us the outside perspective of the circus, and that was an element that I truly needed for the tale to work for me.

The Audiobook was narrated by Jim Dale, who despite being the well know voice of another series of books, I have never encountered before. Dale perfectly captures the magical feel of the tale. His reading of the prose moved at a dreamy pace, allowing the listener to become fully engaged in the tale. I did have some trouble with his characterizations, especially the female voices. I found his voice for Poppet and Widget to sound a bit old for their character’s ages, and Poppet in particular had the feel of an old Scottish crone, instead of a young Circus girl. Yet, I was willing to trade this slight problem for the wondrous way he handled the other aspects of the book. The Night Circus does what a good fantasy novel should, allows you an escape from reality for a bit and take a trip full of wonder and magic. Attempting to compare this novel with anything else does it a disservice, The Night Circus should be listened to without any preconceptions, and be allowed to stand on its own.