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  • The Night Circus

  • Written by: Erin Morgenstern
  • Narrated by: Jim Dale
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (535 ratings)

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The Night Circus

Written by: Erin Morgenstern
Narrated by: Jim Dale
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Publisher's Summary

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

©2011 Erin Morgenstern (P)2011 Random House

What the critics say

" The Night Circus made me happy. Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for, and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty, and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book." (Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife)
"Self-assured, entertaining debut that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic…. Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Debut author Morgenstern doesn't miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love... a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom. This is an electric debut on par with Special Topics in Calamity Physics." ( Publishers Weekly)

Editorial Review

The Night Circus arrives. Black and white, open from dusk until dawn, and inexhaustible in its magic, it brings with it a nightly wonder and a dark and dangerous secret that lurks behind the dazzling lights and astonishing illusions.

Author Erin Morgenstern suspends reality as she weaves a tapestry of magic, mystery, and masquerade in this fantasy release. With prose as overflowing with wonder and enchantment as the setting itself, her dream-like carnival offers listeners a chance to escape to The Night Circus. Yet behind the black and white tents and their implausible spectacles, two students of magic battle in an undefined competition, outdoing one another in increasingly complex and impressive feats. Marco and Celia may be fated to feud against the bedazzling backdrop of the circus, but there’s an even greater magic at work that neither of them can overcome: love.

Accomplished singer, actor, and narrator Jim Dale lends his polished voice to this audiobook. At times tense, at times romantic, at times breathless, he builds a world of mystery and awe, leaving the listener hooked on every word. Widely known for his narration of the Harry Potter series, Dale has won no fewer than 10 Audie Awards and 23 AudioFile Earphone Awards.

The Night Circus spent almost two months on the New York Times best seller list, and has spurred countless themed events and gatherings, creating a real-life following as whimsical and fantastic as the audiobook itself.

What listeners say about The Night Circus

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A tale of dreamy magic without a lot of logic

You will like this book if you like dreamy, fantastical scenes and mysterious carnival type settings and unexplained mystery and magic. If this is you, you will probably also like (and possibly better) books like Caraval, and The High House.

You will NOT like this book if you look for: solidly explained magic systems and worldbuilding; fast-moving plots; and watertight plots and character motivations.

I picked up this audiobook simply because my company's holiday party this year is themed after it, and I wanted to know more about the theme. Goal achieved; now I know to dress in black and white, and wear a red rose or red scarf. The rest of the book was entertaining but confusing to listen to in audio form, since the timeline jumps back and forth and it's very hard to keep track of which chapter is happening in which year when you can't flip back to check the way you can on paper.

Generally speaking, most of the cover blurb is at best exaggerated and at most an outright lie. The book is really about the circus, which isn't even a circus but more of a masquerade carnival type thing. It mysteriously appears overnight, opens only between dusk and dawn, and vanishes without warning. Visitors wander between different tents as they wish, each containing a different wonder.

In the back story, we learn that two rival magicians have each chosen a student to compete in some vague type of competition that is never clearly explained even to the students. These two very problematic teachers teach and abuse their students in various ways and bind them irrevocably to this competition for life. They agree the competition will take place in the circus, but don't tell their students anything useful about what's required, how to win, or how it's scored. Instead, the students grow up and even once they both join the circus, the story wanders around for 15 years or more with both completely unaware of what they need to do to win or lose, instead entertaining themselves by making more magical marvels in the circus until they're indispensible to its continuation. The previous competition between the previous students of these teachers lasted for something like 37 years and only ended because one of them killed herself, so ya know, this book is actually relatively brief.

Anyway, without getting into plot details, plot is rather rambling and the ending seems a little contrived. So if you enjoy magical rambling tales go for it, but if you're looking for reasons, motivations, and logical plot devices, this probably isn't a book for you.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Lex
  • 2017-11-11

Jim Dale is such a wonderful narrator

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although likely more thanks to Jim Dales wonderful reading. He makes wonderful theatre of the stories he presents.
This book did an excellent job of setting a scene. I loved the visuals, its waa very beautiful.

4 people found this helpful

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A magical love story

I love this book, and Jim Dale's reading brings it to life. It is a true love story set amidst a magical circus, with a parallel story of one boy's love of the circus. True storytelling; I have listened to this countless times and I never tire of it. Recommended for: romantics, and those who love magic.

3 people found this helpful

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Narrator is the best part of this story

If it weren't for Jim Dale reading this, I don't think I would have finished it. The details and description of the magical world, the circus, illusions etc was fascinating. The concept of jumping back and forth between two timelines was clever. However...the story in and of itself was slooooowwww and boooorrring. It felt like so much time and energy had been spent on describing the illusions etc, that the story became an afterthought. Who knows why the competition is even a thing to begin with, nobody knows what the rules are, and when/how it's supposed to end. I feel like the author didn't even know how to end it either, because (without spoiling the ending) the ending seemed bizarre. Good fantasy world, junk story.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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An absolute Dream!

Highly recommended for fans of the unexplainable. It’s a wonderful love story surrounded with rich characters all wrapped up in a little magic.

2 people found this helpful

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Exceptional, one to be visited again and again

Exceptional reading and character expression. Imaginative and elaborate story development. I was lost in the circus from start to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Beautiful Prose but Robotic Main characters

I wanted to love this. I love magic, I love romances, I love mystery this had it all.

But I just couldn’t get past the idea *spoilers ahead*

That the two innocent children were essentially abused and locked into a death match but despite this both of these children when they grow up still look at their abusers as father figures who they still care for and love. Not to mention these two men (Hector & Alex) are just essentially using children and sending them to their death for a magic experiment.

I felt midway through the book a bit of excitement thinking ah here we go these two are going to get even better at magic free themselves from this crap shoot they are in with their mentors and teach these abusers a lesson. But no.

I won’t go on, but the long and the short of it, the writing was beautifully crafted but it lacked in substance.

1 person found this helpful

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Lovely narration

I love Listening to Jim Dale narrating the story he does a fabulous job. His voice is beautiful to listen to. The story itself took a little time to grab my attention. But once it did I couldn't stop.

1 person found this helpful

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Great world, slow story.

If you enjoy detailing a whole new world, this is a wonderful listen. The world is beautifully created and described, with many very visual descriptions. Magic and fantasy are a part of every stage of this carefully designed setting. The story itself moves extremely slowly and I had to force myself to keep listening numerous times. I would highly recommend as an escape into another world, but not as a book that keeps you on your toes with the story.

1 person found this helpful

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A Must-Read for All those Craving a little Magic!

This is a must-read for all lover of magic, illusion and romance.
Erin Mogenstien suspends reality and draws in the reader with a descript narrative involving all the senses making you wish it wasn't a work of fiction and you to could visit the tents of the Cirque des Rêves. The characters are unique and colourful, a strong contrast to the black and white setting of the circus which in itself is wonderful to imagine. As always Jim Dale brings each character to life with his unique voice acting and is a credit to the reading of this wonderful story.


#Audible1

1 person found this helpful

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  • Suzn F
  • 2011-09-18

Dreamlike Experience to Savor

This story envelops the reader. I cannot think of another book I have so thoroughly relished. With each and every sentence the author invites you to feel, taste and smell the Night Circus.This circus is like nothing else, beyond imagination. Yet I could see myself there, and although the circus is in only black and white, I was immersed in color and texture. Listening to this story is like eating the most amazing meal in the most beautiful placed you can imagine while sitting next to someone with whom you are infatuated. What a wonderful dream, I want to return and feel it all again, so sad when the book ended. And the narration brings it all alive, kudos to both author and narrator.

273 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2011-09-22

The circus of your dreams

This was one of the most wonderful books I've ever heard. A feast for the ears. The story is fantastically imaginative, the prose is richly visual, I could see all the details of the circus and smell the popcorn and caramel. I wanted to visit the circus myself! The narrator does a wonderful job bringing everything to life. I didn’t want it to end. Once it was over, I couldn’t wait to listen again. This is everything an audiobook should be - try it, you won't be sorry.

271 people found this helpful

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  • Grant
  • 2012-04-18

Something about this book bothered me.

It was a pleasant diversion. And well crafted. But for some reason, I was not pulled into this book as others have been. Jim Dale's performance, as usual, was great. But perhaps I would have liked it more if it had been read by a woman. Maybe the thing that bothers me most about this book is that the premise was more mechanical than emotional. Maybe I did not cotton to the rather cryptic and largely unexplained (until the end, and even then not very well explained) bargain struck at the beginning of the book. Maybe the characters were less than three-dimensional. Maybe it just felt like it was made up as it went along ??? like a children's impromptu story. I don't know. All I do know is that The Night Circus did not thrill me. And I really did want to be thrilled.

203 people found this helpful

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  • Andrea
  • 2011-09-22

This novel did not match the hype around it.

Not sure what the hype is about. It was a really detailed book with a lot of descriptions and some were really interesting, some not so much. It just ended up being OK. Not great, not wonderful. Not sure I would read it again though. And I found that disappointing. I think a circus setting is marvelous and the idea of magical people controlling it was interesting too but was never made into anything that wowed me. The storey disintegrated into a love story about two people we really didn't know much about personality wise and didn't care that much about. They were not the most interesting people at the circus but the interesting ones didn't get their stories told at all. Over all it was like a novel trying to pull in trends from other books that were big hits. Steampunk, wizards and magic, forbidden love, etc, etc. It was almost like the writer was trying so hard to hit all the trends that they forgot to write a good story. The descriptions of some of the stuff were interesting but descriptions of settings do not a good novel make unless they make the STORY more interesting. This just didn't grab me. But the narrator was great!

157 people found this helpful

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  • Joe
  • 2012-07-02

I had high hopes for this one - unfortunately.

I don't normally read these kinds of books, but the reviews were great. A lot of listeners loved the book. I didn't. The story had a lot of promise, but the characters that ended up being the ones focused on had a good beginning, a poor conclusion and a soft middle-story. The descriptions were good, but didn't add too much to the plot of the story. There was also a weird digression into the occult that added nothing to the story and was a little annoying. The narrator was excellent; the story itself had promise. The descriptions were good but didn't build the story as well as they could have.
For me, this was a case of a bad fit. It's a case of "everything is not for everyone." You may enjoy this book. I wouldn't recommend the book, though.

124 people found this helpful

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  • Victoria
  • 2011-09-19

Deliciously Imaginative

This beautifully descriptive book could not come out during a better season when the imagination is already a tingle for Halloween. This world created by Ms. Morgenstern rolls out the red carpet for characters are rich and strong in their own right. This is a book that will always be on my iPod.

96 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • L. deHart
  • 2011-09-20

Wonder and Curiousity

I just finished the Night Circus. The story style reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman, who I think is a wonderful writer in the genre of the "curiousier and curiousier." This story weaves around you from the start, and in the end leaves you wishing to open your mind to all sorts of possibilities. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

93 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Theodore
  • 2012-01-04

It does feel magical

The narrator made this book for me. The story itself is a pretty cool, I like the concept and it was just plain fun to listen to. I think the pace of the story slows down a lot of times and as much as some of the other characters were developed, I could see greater development still being done or more side plots being created to compensate for the rather slow pace of the story sometimes. Still though, fascinating book to listen to and you really do get a sense that you are in a magical place...

89 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Eugenia
  • 2013-05-06

Some Magical, Some Not So Magical

There is a lot to enjoy in this book, but also much that fell flat despite my expectations especially after reading the glowing reviews.

The Magical:

Descriptions of the circus were truly amazing. How beautifully written it was with the sights and sounds and especially, the smells. How unique to focus on the scents and how powerful it created the reality.

Overall the writing was very well done.

The Not-So-Magical:

While many reviewers were taken by the depth of the characters, I found just the opposite. For the most part, they were pretty one dimensional as they interacted with each other and in the realm of the circus.

The competition went nowhere. A huge build-up throughout the book that I expected to culminate in an apocalypse of some kind, but only quietly and gently ended.

And I had no idea about Jim Dale narrating the Harry Potter series, but I found this book to be very reminiscent of Harry Potter in tone and style.

But this last point seems to differ with every other reviewer. I found Jim Dale's narration to be rather difficult to hear the story or the characters. His tone sounded sinister and I kept hearing sinister characters and bad things about to happen. His voice especially for the female characters was terrible. Sorry.

82 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeanne Kaiser
  • 2011-10-18

Major disappointment

This book has gotten very sterling reviews, so I found myself surprised by the strength of my dislike for it. In my view, it was a series of descriptions of the very "magical" circus connected by an undercooked plot. As for the love story--both characters were so dull, I had little interest in what became of them. Even though the word magical appeared countless times in this book, I found it was far from it.

82 people found this helpful