I finished The Night Circus a while ago, wrote this review a while ago, and then forgot to post it. Whoops. Better late than never.
Most of the people I've spoken to about this book have very strong feelings about it. Love it or hate it, there are no feelings in the middle. I can kind of understand how it inspires those feelings, yet I am irrevocably indecisive, so I still find myself mostly in the middle of the road.
I enjoyed reading the book. It held my interest and I didn't really feel that the story lagged or the plot fell apart. That being said, I do take issue with some aspects of the book.
Most of the story is supposed to be set in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Other than women wearing gowns instead of dresses and the characters speaking with fewer contractions there is really no sense of this whatsoever. I understand that this is a different side of that era and Morgenstern is trying to show us a bit of the fantastic, but if you're going to go through the trouble to set that sort of scene, there needs to be more follow-through.
The challenge concept was a good idea, but there wasn't really the right balance of conflict throughout. At times there was so much focus on the challenge that there was a complete halt to the story, at others, the challenge seemed entirely forgotten. There was just a bit of a balance issue.
I also wanted to know more about Poppet, Widget, and Bailey and more about Marco's charms. These were the most interesting parts for me and I wish they had been developed more. It just felt like Poppet, Widget, and Bailey should have been played much bigger parts in the story. They were interesting and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it was like for Poppet and Widget growing up in the circus. And the magic: Celia's is innate, but Marco's is learned. I understood this to be at least partially the basis of the challenge, so I wanted to know more about Marco's magic. I also wanted to learn more about the magic that held the circus together: what magic belonged to whom?
All in all, Morgenstern has a flair for description, I'll give her that, but at times I wondered at the things she chose to describe. It almost seems like everything I wanted might have been in there at some point, and then someone told her to edit for length and she took out all the wrong parts.