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A Rich Atmosphere with Bland Characters – 3 stars

The Night Circus is a book that had me thinking it was fairly good until I really thought about what I did and didn’t like about it. I was initially impressed by the original theme and plot, and the writing is bordering on great but didn’t quite get there for me. Morgenstern’s descriptive language provides a rich atmosphere, but the rhythm overall is repetitive and, at times, monotonous.

The editing lets the book down. I know a lack of punctuation can be trendy, or speed up the flow, but only when used effectively. Tim Winton is a skillful writer who knows when to leave out punctuation, but Erin Morgenstern’s editor should be slapped with a wet fish. There were instances where sentences became unclear and I had to read them twice to make sure I understood exactly what they were saying—a comma can be a good thing. I also found a couple of run-on sentences, which a reader probably wouldn’t notice, but as an editor, I couldn’t help but see.

The characters were likable and I could picture them clearly, however they lacked depth and I didn’t love any of them. The love story between two of the characters had moments of intensity, but not enough for my liking (and I don’t mean it should have been more raunchy). It seemed like the author was keeping them apart to build suspense and it worked as I was thinking, come on when will they get to see each other again, but when they did reunite it wasn’t spectacular, it was just OK.

I’m wondering if the focus on the circus took too much focus off the characters. The author has skillfully set the atmosphere and scene but it has come at a cost to character depth. Sometimes I wished she would just get on with telling the story, rather than describe every single tent in the damn circus. The circus stole some of the soul of the characters and none were as central to the story as it was, which I think is a mistake. To me, this book is a good example that characterization can be more important than plot and setting—give me lovable characters and I’d be happy to watch them lazing away on the beach, but give me boring ones and my heart won’t race even if they’re wrestling crocodiles.

OK, I know it seems like I didn’t like the book, but I liked it enough that I wanted to read the whole thing and I did enjoy parts of it, however it doesn’t make my ‘want to re-read’ list.