OK. I should start by saying that I came to this book with great expectations. I'd heard it compared (favorably) to the works of Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman, all my friends returned from vacation in love with it, and the cover is just so pretty. All of these things built my expectations up to a point that might have been a little unreasonable.The story begins with the sweet tragedy of how our young magicians came to study magic, and the opening chapters really are lovely in that cold, magical way we all hope for in books of this genre. Morgenstern exercised admirable restraint when describing the more fantastical elements of the story. As a result, several passages fall flat, but it feels like a small price to pay to avoid all that tedious Magically Magical Magic talk. The supporting characters are fun, interesting, and believable--particularly Celia and Marco's guardians and the children who live at the circus. In fact, I would love to spend more time with the entire cast of characters--with the notable exception of the romantic pair at the center of the story.And that was my only real disappointment--I neither believed these two were in love nor cared whether they managed to stay together in the end, and since the last half of the novel is largely dedicated to their love story we really need to be invested in the fates of the star-crossed lovers.Oh well. It's still a fun, diverting read. It might be good for a book club or something since it contains nothing weird about religion or sex and there are no mercurial men being drawn inexorably to do things. And it'd make a great vacation read because it's good enough to hold your attention, but not so engrossing as to be impossible to put down. Just don't dive in expecting another Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and you'll be just fine.