IN A SENTENCE
Great premise, incredibly sloppy writing.
IN MANY SENTENCES
My experience with Night Circus leaves me very hesitant to recommend it. While I ultimately enjoyed the novel, readers with more cutthroat instincts will probably abandon this movie 20 pages in, as I very nearly did.
The first quarter of the book goes on and on with long descriptive passages that barely even serve the purpose of exposition, and certainly don't pay off later in the novel. Had the initial premise not been so compelling, I definitely would not have continued. Morgenstern shifts from perspective to perspective, leaping back and forth in time in a manner that precludes any connection with the characters or with any particular storyline.
I thought then, and I still think now, "Was the editor drunk?"
When the novel finally became engaging (right at the 26% point!), it struck me that the previous 1/4 of the novel could have easily been summed up in a few paragraphs, and those paragraphs could have worked to serve character instead of just sitting there, static on the page.
In case you don't believe me about the dull, flat writing:
"The first to arrive (after the pianist, already playing) is Mme. Ana Padva, a retired Romanian prima ballerina who had been dear friends with Chandresh's mother. He called her Tante Padva as a child, and continues to do so to this day. She is a stately woman, the grace of a dancer still visible through her advanced age, along with her impeccable sense of style. Her sense of style is the primary reason she is invited this evening. She is a fiend for aesthetics with an eye for fashion that is both unique and coveted, and provides her with a sizable income since her retirement from the ballet."
It's not even grammatically correct! Allow me to use Morgenstern's own words against her:
"The goings-on of the circus are dutifully reported, but with such matter-of-fact precision that he cannot picture it in the richness of detail that he desires."
But then things improve. Once we become more involved in the intricacies of the circus itself, the book transforms into something far more magical. There are plot holes galore and the finale is vaguely disappointing (I say vaguely because what happens isn't precisely clear), but there's much to recommend about it. The characters finally come alive, and the romance in the novel feels real and adult, which is unusual for a young adult novel.
But Morgenstern never overcomes the lack of trust in her writing ability. Typos and occasionally grammatical mistakes are fine, but this novel felt incredibly sloppy in so many ways. It doesn't even feel like a first draft, it feels like the regurgitations a writer makes that is then shaped into a first draft. There are diamonds in the rough, but it's up to you whether you feel like digging through.
You're not going to hear me say this often: I can't wait to see this made into a movie. I guarantee that even the worst screenwriter will cut the fluff and improve the story.
Have you read Night Circus? What did you think?