I expected to like this much more than I did. The imagery was magical, certainly, but I felt like the writing was charming more than I felt actually charmed. Morganstern spends a lot of time describing the circus in cinematic detail, but the characters and plot points seem devised mainly to fill a place in the overall spectacle and lack any sense of vitality. If this were a movie, I would say it's over designed: nothing breathes! Perhaps because of this, very little about the plot surprised me. I'd suggest Susanna Clarke's Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell instead.