I think this is going to be the last review of a novel that I put on this blog.
I want to add that I first wrote this review not long after reading this, trying to recover from the dazzling world. Since then, my opinion has soured a little more regarding the plot. I have since realized there were a number of problems in the basic structure, all of them stemming from a lack of clarity regarding the magic system and a lack of consequences for the bits of clarity it has. If you love fantasy, you’ll probably end up very disappointed in this book.
Too bad. It’s a very pretty world.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The best thing about this book is the romance. It sparkles and shimmers and made me smile each time, whether the couple were physically together in the same scene or not. Ms. Morgenstern makes you feel the two are together always, whether they realize it or not. That’s a wonderful gift for a romance writer and I hope to see more from her in the future.
The circus itself is a close second. It’s obvious Ms. Morgenstern thought it through down to the least details (or at least makes it appear so). The images are stunning, some of them haunting, and all of them with a beauty that made me ache for pictures. By the end of the story, and I don’t think this is going to be a spoiler in any way, the circus has become a sort of temple, something much bigger than what its creators (most of them anyway) had intended.
One of the things this book does very well, in fact, is touch on the spiritual longing each of us feels and tries to fill through stories and obsessions. Each attraction is, in its own way, either a story or a way for the participant to tell one. The ones who become obsessed with the circus find satisfaction in forming a group of sorts, based on that shared love. The circus’ fandom is a sweet addition to this beautiful story and a fantastic sub-plot.
So, with all this praise, you may wonder why I only gave it three stars.
I only gave it three because of the sub-plot with a character named Bailey. His story, in my opinion, weakened the ending. Some will probably feel it was a perfect, fairy-tale touch. I felt it was a cheat. It sucked the power of the ending into a trite tying of loose ends where everyone ends up happy, some of them without having to really do anything at all to earn it beyond buying a ticket and wishing. I wanted to see everyone in this book have to sacrifice in proportion to what they received, and that didn’t happen.
However, the rest of the book is amazing and well worth the time.