Alexis: Read 12/16/18
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but this is a really hard book for me to rate. Is it 3 ½ stars? 4? 4 and ½? I had a hard time deciding. I will confess, I skimmed a lot of Goodreads reviews and was relieved to find that a lot of other people felt the same way.
I loved aspects of this book; I was confused by aspects of this book; I disliked aspects of this book. I understand the major hype surrounding it, and maybe I went in with too-high expectations.
Morgenstern’s writing is beautiful and lyrical. The best part of this book is how her descriptions of the circus launch you into a wonderful, atmospheric world. She uses all four senses to describe the circus, and I loved the recurring descriptions of how the circus smelled: like popcorn, caramel, and bonfire smoke. I loved the black and white theme of the circus, the intricate clock, and the minute details Morgenstern includes about each tent.
The circus itself is almost the main character as much as it is the setting, which actually fits perfectly when you reach the ending.
As for the characters, both Celia and Marco’s characters start out strong, but seem to flatline as the book progresses. It doesn’t help that the book switches perspectives every chapter. This creates a snapshot effect. Each chapter almost feels like a character study, interspersed with short circus-character studies. Not only does the book jump back and forth in perspectives, but it jumps back and forth in time. Because of this, the first hundred pages or so were a bit of a drag for me. Not much is revealed, and the book’s plot progresses slowly.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that this book doesn’t have much of a plot. Whenever the perspective deviates from Celia and Marco, I found myself feeling annoyed. I wanted them to be more present characters than they were, and I wanted them to do more actions than they did. I found myself gravitating more towards Bailey, Poppet, and Widgets’ storylines, as their characters felt more lively and real.
Despite the skimpy plot, my other issue with the book is the romance. I’m not a fan of the love at first sight storyline unless it serves a good purpose. It would make sense that Celia and Marco would have an outright connection, due to their similarities. However, for a 500 page book, there was definitely room for more of a romantic build up so the reader could actually see them falling in love instead of just being told that they fell in love. Their relationship didn’t feel as deep and real as I wanted it to, and a certain speech by Marco (on pages 419 and 420) didn’t help; Marco and Celia’s dialogue with each other often felt too flat.
Thankfully, I was pleased with the direction the ending went, and I’m glad that it tied up some of the many loose knots tied throughout the book. I just wished there was more of a plot.
VERDICT: 3 ½ out of 5 books
Anna: Read 12/25/18
Like Alexis, this book was so hyped that I expected a lot of it. Also like Alexis, I loved the descriptions of the circus and its different tents and inhabitants. I was also intrigued by the magic in the beginning, as well as the mystery of the circus, and the competition, and think I lost some interest as more of the rules of the competition are revealed (even though the reader never really gets a fully satisfactory explanation of the competition, which frustrated me.)
Honestly, I would have rated this four stars if not for the love story, which I found both cliche and tedious. Though the romance between Marco and Celia added more tension to the competition, I felt that there are more interesting and imaginative ways to raise the stakes. There is also the troubling fact that Marco and Celia’s relationship is shallow, which makes it hard to root for or even believe. I enjoyed reading from Bailey’s perspective more so that any of the others, and I liked that his storyline grounded the circus in reality. I also agree with Alexis that there are WAY too many unnecessary perspectives in this, which bogs down the pace. Perhaps with the perspectives Morgenstern is trying to show that there are many moving parts to the circus, but I think she relayed this with the sheer amount of characters.
Can I also point out that the way that Marco treats Isobel is that of a misogynist pig? I had a big problem with that.
The melodramatic romance automatically knocked it down one star, as did the resolution of the competition, which I found wishy-washy. Despite the fantastic and magical circus scenes, I’m honestly disappointed!
VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books
Hopefully in future dual reviews we have more varied opinions from each other!