Monday, January 12, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus (2011)
Wriiten by Erin Morgenstern
Narrated by Jim Dale
Run Time: 13 hours, 40 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio/Doubleday

The music started off with spooky, ethereal tones. I was nervous as to whether or not I'd like audiobooks after a first try two years ago that turned out less than stellar. I knew Jim Dale was supposed to be a legend within the audiobook community after doing the narration for the Harry Potter series, so I figured The Night Circus was a good place to start.

The book is the story of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, two magicians of considerable skill pitted against each other in a high-stakes "challenge" that could result in death. Celia is the leading illusionist at Le Cirque De Reve, a late 1800's traveling circus that "opens at nightfall, closes at dawn." Marco helps run the circus, but has ulterior motives for his involvement. Eventually, the two start to be smitten with each other before conflict ensues.

The book's strength is in its descriptions of items, not its plot. Hearing Dale describe colors, foods and textures, among other items, was a delight. He is so good, I would pay to hear this man read nutrition label facts at a grocery store. He nails various English-language dialects, including what sounded like Irish and Scottish, with ease. The praise and accolades showered on Dale were validated by his performance here.

The world Morgenstern creates and Dale explains is stunning at first glance, but as the novel progresses, the luster starts to wear off and the characters become fairly predictable. When the two magicians try to find a way out of the challenge, I knew exactly how they would do it, in part because it had been strongly hinted at earlier in the book. By the time the book's main plot conflict was over, I was ready to pack up and go, but there was still 45 minutes left to tie up the story. At the end, there's a plot twist that sort of reminded me of Christopher Nolan's film The Prestige in terms of a shocking twist finale. It worked in Nolan's movie, but it did not work here.

Rating: 3.5 stars. The audiobook narration was a delight to listen to coming to and from work and the world of The Night Circus is intricately detailed. However, the book is hindered by a slow-moving plot, especially in the cumbersome third act. Having said that, it was a great starter audiobook and had me rush onto the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that. Then, I finally said screw it and got an Audible subscription.

The Harry Potter connection doesn't end with Dale. Potter film producer David Heyman will also produce a movie adaptation of this novel as well. Lionsgate/Summit, the film studio that has had huge success in novel adaptations of The Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight, will handle and oversee this one too. No word on when we might see Marco and Celia grace the big screen, but as I read the book, I could imagine how beautiful it could look.

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