screenshot153 When The Night Circus came out on 2011, I immediately put it on my to-read list because it sounded like it would be right up my alley. A little magic, a little mystery, a little romance.

But then I read some of the early reviews- many of which were very complementary, but a few saying “hold on, not so fast” and I let the book slip further and further down on the TBR queue. It sat there until last month, when my book club decided to read it.

Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the book synopsis:

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.

I’m very middle of the road about The Night Circus. I certainly don’t think it lives up to the hype surrounding it at its publication time. It was entertaining, but never a page-turner for me. In fact, I read two other books start to finish while I was also reading this one.

So many things fell flat to me. I felt like the story took forever to really take off. Finally, in the last third or so of the book, things began to happen and I got curious. The training of Celia and Marco is mentioned, but never really explained. As a reader, I didn’t feel any real connection to their magic. Similarly, while their time together was magnetic, I never really felt the jolt that caused Celia and Marco to have so many strong feelings for each other. I didn’t really buy their epic romance. We also didn’t get to see terribly deep into Celia and Marco to feel a real connection with them. I felt much more engaged in the stories of Poppet, Widget, and Bailey. Their stories had a more authentic ring to me. There are other elements that were touched on and I think would have benefitted from a deeper explanation, but I would spoil if I shared those, so I won’t.

The descriptions of the circus were very well done. As a reader, I understood the circus’ pull to the spectators, experiencing all the illusions of the senses that they did.

The most visceral reaction I had to the book was at the very beginning of the story when Celia and Marco were bound to the duel.  It was a magical binding, with rules that one of them will die, and this was done to them as children, and without their consent. That their parent/parental figure could do that made me angry.

Most people in my book club thought the book was OK, although everyone agreed it was a slower than expected read.

My bottom line?  The Night Circus is OK, but there are a lot of other books I would recommend before this one.