Friday, September 30, 2011

Audio Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I've been hearing lots of great things about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern so snapped it up when I saw it on my library's Overdrive. The circus is amazing. The setting has a lot of imagination and originality, but other parts of the story aren't as developed. This may be a better book to read than to listen to.

Genre: Historical fantasy
Length: 13h 39m
Audio publisher: Random House Audio, 2011

Recap: In a world where magic is not believed, two true magicians agree to a duel. They each choose a student to train, and the young prodigies compete by creating elaborate displays at The Night Circus. Only the young illusionists don't know how they are being judged or when the competition will end.

Review: When The Night Circus is describing the circus, it does a fabulous job. Unfortunately, when it comes to characters and plot, the book falls flat. I found audio version of The Night Circus difficult to follow since each chapter jumps around in place and time. After the prologue, the circus doesn't make another appearance for about two hours, and these were two long hours.

The book is written in third person present tense which acts to puts the characters at a distance. The two older magicians are largely unsympathetic and their wards blank slates. For most of the story, I couldn't relate to the people or their situations. The real star of the book is the circus, and its descriptions are a lot of fun. However, I don't feel a setting is enough to carry a book. I want interesting characters and some kind of plot in addition to the dreamscape. This is the kind of book that I didn't really enjoy while I was listening to it, but like it much more now that I'm done and can re-live the fun parts.

Reading: Jim Dale is a rock star among audio readers. I loved his readings of the Harry Potter books and was psyched when I heard he was the reader. Since his voices are so memorable, some phrasings were reminiscent of Potter characters, but this happened infrequently and wasn't too distracting. Dale has a fabulous accent, but I'm still getting use to the British pronunciation of some words. Every time he said "bonfire" I heard "bomb-fire." Since this is fantasy, I thought maybe it was a new word.

Final thoughts: A must-read for fans of fantasy. The circus setting is too wonderful to be missed, but be prepared for confusing time-jumps, unsympathetic characters, and boring stretches when the circus is away.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5


  1. I am listening to it on audio too and enjoying it so far but not as thrilled with Jim Dales reading as I thought I would be. Like you, I loved his in the Harry Potter audio!

  2. I just sort of skimmed, because I think this is my next audiobook, and I didn't want to read too much, but I'm a little relieved that you weren't enthused by this, it might give me more realistic expectations.

  3. If you've skimmed, then your expectations are probably where they should be. I hope you like the audio! It was funny when Hermione and Ron would suddenly star talking.

  4. Sheila - yes, it takes some getting used to. Jim Dale has such a distinct voice, it's hard to hear him doing anything else.