Thursday, February 9

Review of Two Circus-Themed Novels: The Night Circus & Caraval

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” 

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. 

“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.” 

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


What worked for me: 
  • THE CIRCUS. THE CIRCUS. THE CIRCUS. It was everything I hoped for and more. The attractions and performances were truly magical, even the ones that had zero to do with magic. And there were no creepy clowns?? Which is usually what circuses are associated with, but not in Erin Morgenstern's world! I'm not a huge fan of circuses, but I want The Night Circus to be real so badly. *cries* Also, kudos for the black and white theme - original, elegant and simplistic. LOVE IT.
  • You'll see if you scroll down a bit that I had quite a few problems with the novel, but despite all that I was into the story, so much so that I was fully invested in it from the very first page up until I closed the novel
  • The prose is truly gorgeous and magical, aka perfectly fit for this story. The expressive way Morgenstern described the circus and its spectacles made it so damn easy to imagine how it could all look. 
What didn't work for me:
  • Where's the duel at? I expected cunning and back-stabbing and just vicious, vicious, VICIOUS fighting, but alas everything was super-peaceful and for quite some time the characters didn't even have any idea about a) who they were fighting against, and b) any of the rules. Like, they were so damn lost it wasn't even funny. Basically, their 'duel' was creating something new for the circus and then admiring each others' work. #booooring
  • The psychopathic father-figures, instead of making the atmosphere sinister and creepy, were just downright disgusting to me. And, in the end, one of them was portrayed as, well, definitely not good, but maybe in a more positive light? Of course, that made me go like, DON'T YOU DARE REDEEM HIM IN ANY WAY, because I didn't care one bit for these bastards who think it's okay to use innocent children for their sick games. 
  • The characters are the very definition of flat. The author had FOUR HUNDRED pages to create lively and realistic characters, yet she somehow failed at it, and this makes me the saddest cookie in the house. :( I just... don't get how you can have such a unique setting and concept, and then fuck up the characters so majorly. There was no development or growth, even though the book spans over SIXTEEN FREAKING YEARS. #disappointed
  • The romance was awful, and that comes from someone who was so pumped for it when she first picked up the book! (Yep, that's me.) First of all, it's freaking insta-love. I mean, sure they've known each other for sixteen motherfucking years, but it's not like they've been in contact or anything, so them falling in love is thanks to a handful conversations and meetings, plus being totally into each others' works. SO ROMANTIC, I KNOW. 
All in all, The Night Circus had some breathtakingly unique elements, but overall it was a huge let down. Neither the characters nor the plot was anything close to spectacular, and I don't think I'd have missed out on much if I haven't picked this one up. Well, besides the gorgeous hardcover copy sitting on my shelf. 

The story idea: 4/5
The realization of the story: 3/4
The characters: 2/5
The cover: 5/5
Enjoy factor: 3/5



What worked for me: 
  • The relationship between Scarlet and Tella was the most gorgeous thing ever. Of course, I've read about lovely sibling relationships before, but this one stood out even among those. It was full of epic scenes that spoke about their love, support and protectiveness towards each other. For example, the first time the readers get a grasp of their father? I was like, damn, these girls are catty, BUT THEN, BAMM, TWIST. I just... I love them together AND I NEED MORE SISTER POWER IN THE SEQUEL. (Which, I'm guessing/hoping is going to be from Tella's POV??? I want that!! I feel like Scarlet's story is mostly finished.)
  • While at first I really wasn't feeling the romance, what with Julian acting so strange without explanation, it improved tons and became quite cute and wonderful by the second half of the novel. All in all, I SHIP SCARLET AND JULIAN SO MUCH OMG. Their scenes together are absolutely heartwarming and just so damn adorable. I LOVE THEM, OK. 
  • The setting - aka Legend's private island where Caraval took place - was marvelous, magical and mysterious, full of interesting people and intriguing adventures.
  • I'll admit that the story didn't manage to grab my attention fully up until the halfway point, but after the 50% mark I became fully immersed in the story. I finally connected more to Scarlet and I went through a whirlwind of emotions as I was following her through her adventurous journey. 
  • The final twist was SO DAMN SURPRISING! I didn't expect anything like this, at all. I don't even think this can be predicted, to tell you the truth, so huge kudos to the author for originality.
What didn't work for me:
  • The whole game didn't much feel like a competition, at no point did I have the feeling that anyone else but Scarlet had the chance of uncovering the mystery. To be honest, most of the time it felt like the other competitors weren't even trying, they were just there for the ride. This was a problem, because it seriously took away a lot from my excitement over what was going to happen.
  • As I mentioned in the 'what worked for me' part - because I clearly can't even separate properly the positive and the negative in a book duh - it took me quite some time to get into the story and the characters. It's not that I was bored throughout half of Caraval, but I kind of thought that I could have done without reading this book, as it just wasn't showing anything fan-freaking-tastic. Thankfully, that changed. 
All considered, Caraval is an otherworldly and mysterious book with a well-written budding romance and superb sibling-relationship. No, it wasn't perfect, but good things in life rarely are (lol, I'm so wise, I know), so I'd definitely recommend picking it up, as it'll surely take you on an extraordinary journey through magic and mayhem.

The story idea: 5/5
The realization of the story: 4/5
The characters: 4/5
The cover: 5/5
Enjoy factor: 4/5



  1. God, I'm glad I'm not the only one disappointed by the romance in The Night Circus. Magical book but I didn't understand the romance at all. I thought it was kind of random. I can't wait to read Caraval though, I've heard so many good things.

    1. Yeah, it definitely felt like something thrown in purely to follow the current trends in fiction... so unnecessary. :( Hope you'll love Caraval! :)

  2. I loved The Night Circus. I thought it was incredibly beautiful, I think the romance lacked because when the author originally wrote it, it was just about one of the main characters (I forget which one), and then she rewrote it to include a romance. I haven't read Caraval yet, but plan to!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Rebecca. Wow, I didn't know that! I kind of wish she had left the book without the romance, because it seriously took away from my enjoyment. Hope you'll love Caraval!

  3. I haven't read either of these yet but I'm hoping to soon! I haven't really read any circus themed books so these two will be a first for me. I'm glad to hear that you didn't love every minute of Caraval, actually, because I've heard so many amazing things about it and it's nice to see that it isn't all perfection to everyone. Lovely reviews, Veronika!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. Haha, I'm glad I could offer you a bit of a different opinion than all the glowing reviews - Caraval sure seems to be a huge favorite in the book blogging community. Thank you! I really hope you'll enjoy both these novels, Laure!

  4. I'm yet to read both the books and incredibly excited for Caraval :) Sorry to hear The night Circus wasn't as wonderful for you. Great reviews though :) You've pointed out important things without any spoilers :)


    1. I honestly hope you'll love both these novels, Uma! Thank you! <3


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