Saturday, October 22, 2011

Don't believe the hype -- discover the magic for yourself

When the reviews for a particular book read as though they're trying to top each other in their hyperbole, each struggling to be the most glowing, the most effusive in its praise of a book, I get suspicious.  Yes, I love finding a well-reviewed book just as much as the next person; it's nice to know going in that others have found it worth the time.  Still, a little too much praise and I start to get a little suspicious that's it a case of the Emperor's New Clothes, where everyone is just afraid to admit they didn't like it as much as the last person so they have to like it even more.  I've been burned before (I still won't cop to some of the best-reviewed books that I absolutely couldn't stand...unless you ask, in which case I'll share)...and I am, apparently, far more conspiracy-minded when it comes to book reviews than I had realized. 

Still, despite my trepidation based on the incredible reviews, the public clamor, and the fact that the book was optioned for a movie before it was even released, I was pleasantly surprised by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  In addition to providing yet another title to my growing list of reasons to think that that sometimes the best books are, in fact, by first-time authors, The Night Circus also managed to prove that, sometimes, you can actually beat the expectations game.

The world of The Night Circus and its cast of characters were far more unique than you might suspect from the many comparisons to Harry Potter and Twilight that have been made.  And, if I can digress for a moment, I would like to implore book reviewers to stop comparing every book with some element of fantasy to Harry Potter and Twilight  They were blockbusters in their own rights without question, but not every book that involves a bit of magic should be compared to them.  If you want the Hollywood pitch of this-meets-that, I'd argue that you should think Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell meets Something Wicked This Way ComesComparisons aside, Morgenstern has crafted a world of dreamy wonderment with the Cirque des Reves.  Her writing was so evocative that I could swear I tasted the caramel corn and heard the music.  I was immersed completely in the world she created and I want to go back.  If only I can get the reveurs to tell me where it will be next...

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