I seldom re-read books. Tempus fugit, and all that. Plus my TBR shelf growls and snarls at me, every time I walk by, which I do many times per day. I resolutely averted my eyes, ignored the miserable muttering from the books imploring: read me! read me! me-me-me! Instead I re-entered Erin Morgenstern’s magical world of The Night Circus.

I read the book when it first launched in a fireworks-flurry of promotion, hype, excitement and cultish rapture. Our Book Club bought a copy and I read it super-fast, because other members were hounding me, so I rushed through the story, barely comprehending the ending, in order to pass the book along to the next eager reader. I recall enjoying the story, but being vaguely puzzled by the rapturous reception. I have met readers who, upon finishing the book, raced to the nearest bookstore to secure their own copy, and have , by now, eleven years since publication, re-read it many times over. I used the word cultish earlier. I stand by it.

So how did the book perform, the second time around, after a much slower, careful read?

It certainly scores top marks for atmosphere, and for originality. Erin M weaves a skilful spell when it comes to creating ambience, otherness, magical delights and sensuous experiences. And no, the book is not dripping with sex. A little restrained eroticism, yes, but no purple pages. What does drip off the pages is esoterica, by way of runes, sigils, symbols, arcana, tarot, white doves, stars, misleading mirrors, vanishing doorways, smoke and mirrors . Like I said, very, very atmospheric.

The plot is more comprehensible the second time around, but I disliked the hoppy-skippy approach to time. My only complaint. The characters were acceptable, the major characters came across to maximum effect. Basically, its a story of two master magicians involved in a power struggle via their apprentices, bound to their masters, and set to complete a mysterious, unnamed challenge. Love and sacrifice are demanded, and given, but all finally ends well.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. It was an engrossing, atmospheric read.

Will I dash out to buy a copy? No.

I expect, by now, you’ve all read it. What did you think?

P.S.: Here’s the bookmark I used for this read. “The Weaving of the Enchantress” by Thomas Matthew Rooke (1842-1942). It struck me as the perfect bookmark. I keep old, favourite postcards and re-use them as bookmarks.


  1. Alison, this is not a genre I enjoy, as you know.

    But it was a Book Club choice for me too at the height if its popularity, so I read it. I enjoyed your article and if I find the book on the Library shelves, I may just borrow it.

    I always enjoy your articles. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read my brother’s copy when I visited him in New Zealand in 2015 and really enjoyed it – this kind of magical fantasy must be my favourite genre of all times! I did not enjoy “The starless sea” half as much – so we must have opposing tastes 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting! I’ve just re-read it myself. I first heard it as an audio book but reading the actual hardcopy has been far more satisfying. I am in awe of Morgenstern’s ability to sustain her truly magical, analogous plot lines, characters and weave mystic dreamlike insubstantiality with practical reality. It’s not one to race through – you miss so much if you do. I think its better than her newer novel The Starless Sea, though that was a good read too

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I tried to read this book. I didn’t succeed. I didn’t think it was well written and it seemed much too weird to be enjoyable. I could not finish it. I wasted my money buying it.


  5. So annoying when you buy a book and then don’t enjoy it. I do sympathize. My book budget is not large, and when I make a bad buy, it really hurts. Even though I read many book reviews, periodically I land up with a dud. People’s tastes differ.
    You can always sell/gift/donate your copy. I frequently purge my shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

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