The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

A Lesson in Style and Story

night circusThis story shouldn’t work. Third person, present tense, interspersed with the occasional second person chapters, lots of exposition, very little direct character interaction. According to every writing class I have ever taken, every article on writing I have ever read, every editorial report I have ever written, this novel should be a non-starter. And yet, Morgenstern has managed to create something magical. All these elements, normally a recipe for disaster, come together to create an atmosphere of mystery and enchanting.

The circus arrives in town with no warning. It has no schedule, no itinerary. Its customary black and white tents appear unexpectedly, its gates only open at night. Its tents and performers are as mysterious as its  presence. But the wishing tree, cloud maze, and garden of ice hide something more sinister.

Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair have been raised for one purpose: to compete against one another in a game of magic that will test their skills and wills. They don’t know the rules, who their opponents are, or even how a winner is determined, but still they must prove themselves for their masters. The arena: Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams. What’s at stake is more than either can imagine.

Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a lesson in writing. This is what it means to develop a unique style and voice. This is what it means to know the rules so you can break them. Every writer should take note.

That’s not to say the book is perfect. I’m not convinced when it comes to the love story and sometimes the cast of characters is unwieldy, but these are minor quibbles to the reading overall experience.


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