Month: March 2013

The Night Circus is Magical but Meanders

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

4 star

4 Stars

Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” is the enchanting tale of two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are mortally bound to one another in a magic competition where the outcome preordains that only one of them will survive. Forced into a rivalry created by their mentors, the magicians Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. A.H_, who groom and equip their young protégés with magic abilities to use in a final confrontation, Celia and Marco find themselves inextricably in love. The enigmatic Night Circus that moves around the world from city to city and is only open to the public at night serves as the forum for this game to which the two young magicians are unwillingly a part.

Morgenstern has a gift for descriptive language that paints intricate images of the characters and scene settings. The story’s magical theme extends to the author’s writing as she slips in vague references and sleights of hand to describe the scene in unexpected ways. Her skillful use of point of view and second-person present tense makes the story all the more fanciful. Her prose is captivating. The author’s ability to migrate the story from different perspectives and places makes it all the more compelling, although it can be an exercise in patience keeping all the perspectives, characters, places, and dates straight.

The story has moments of greatness, from the formation of the circus and the untimely deaths of some of its actors to a fascinating, surprise conclusion. However, the narrative at times stagnates as Morgenstern devotes substantial space to painting scenes in such vivid detail that it detracts from the plot. One can spend pages trying to decipher which information is relevant to the story or is extraneous. It leaves the reader wondering why some details were included when they seemingly lead to dead ends. The storyline plods along so long that Morgenstern rushes to bring it to an uncharacteristically messy conclusion. The narrative’s fits, starts, stops, and pickups may leave readers with the impression that novel is not unlike a wood-fired, iron horse locomotive struggling to pull the Night Circus’ boxcars up a steep mountain pass en route to their next destination.

Morgenstern’s writing is indeed magical. For that I give “The Night Circus” four stars and recommend her novel to anyone with an interest in magic, the darker arts, or a great example of using allusion and imagery. The book won’t disappoint.

The Night Circus is now available at:



‘Thirst’ is a Thirst Quenching Thriller

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Thirst by L.A. Larkin

5 star

5 Stars

I’ve been a fan of Antarctica thrillers since John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film “The Thing” kept me up at night for a week after I watched it. In her nail-biting thriller “Thirst,” Author L.A. Larkin taps a similar vein of man (and woman) versus the unknown in the dreaded white and often hellish isolation of Antarctica. Her story about an attack on an Australian research station near Pine Island Glacier by terrorists offers spine-chilling suspense that rivals the frozen dread haunting “The Thing.” When the terrorists attack the station and kill most of its inhabitants in a secret operation to exploit the protected continent’s resources, it falls on maverick glaciologist Luke Searle and station leader Maddie Wildman to stop their attackers from committing an unthinkable act that will devastate Antarctica and the world.

The author writes in an easy-to-read, fast-paced style that makes this thriller a breeze to read. An environmental specialist who visited Antarctica to gather research for this book, Larkin paints a realistic portrayal of Antarctica. The combination of the two results in one of the more unique novels I’ve read in a setting infrequently used in the genre. The action is relentless with some scenes that help make the main characters more realistic. One can sense the animosity between Luke and Maddie that softens as the novel progresses. While the evolution of their relationship is predictable, it’s still plausible. The penultimate chapter could have been written for a James Bond movie, while the final one brings the story to a close that makes the reader wish it would continue.

If I have any qualms about the story, it’s the overuse of stereotypes. Although their Chinese ethnicity is a change from the stereotypical “bad guy” found in so many thrillers, the villains are caricaturized at times with bloodthirsty ambitions for power, inhuman cruelty, and issues with filial piety that leaves no room for redeeming traits. While this is no different than endless stories featuring villains who lack personality, making them more multi-dimensional would have improved the book.

“Thirst” is a great read. I give it five stars and recommend it to anyone looking to read a thriller off the beaten path (in this case, Antarctica), an environmental-themed story, or an action-packed novel with shades of “The Thing” and James Bond’s “Die Another Day.”

Thirst is now available at: