This book was not entirely what I expected. Perhaps because my edition is a Penguin Vintage Classic which led me to believe it was written long before 2011 but either way I did enjoy it.
The story centres around a magic ‘competition’ between two competitors, set up by their prospective mentors. Celia Bowen is the first, taught by her father, a famous illusionist, (who is actually a real magician) and the second is Marco Alisdair taught by Celia’s father’s mysterious frenemy, Alexander. It is hard to explain more than this without giving away spoilers really.
Though the language is simple, the imagery was really something else and I did think in a book like this it would have been easy to disrupt the balance between story and description but I thought Morgenstern did it really well overall. I did come out of it wanting to buy a red scarf and head to a circus even though I know these days they are just wacky fun fairs with strange clowns as opposed to this kind of, for lack of a better word, experience.
There are a few nitpicks but nothing huge. I found it slightly difficult to follow as the chapters jumped around between cities and dates and years and so on and sometimes in an order that made it confusing who was how old and what had already happened. I got a general grasp by the end but it made the reading slightly less easy.
There is something of an explanation for this large presence of wizards in the 19th century at the very end but it isn’t really an explanation but they ignored it for so long I was barely even curious at that point. I had just accepted they could just do magic because they could do magic and that was that.
Otherwise, I loved Celia and Marco and actually felt that they were well matched really but it would have been better had they had more than 2 (ish) full-length conversations so it was obvious they had gotten to know each other a little bit.
Bailey and the Murray twins were also brilliant and my favourite characters. However, my favourite part of the whole book had to be “You deceitful little slut.” because it just came out of nowhere and I laughed far too much.
I had been warned the ending was disappointing but I had such low expectations going in that I think it balanced it out and I felt it was an okay ending. I wanted to give it 4 stars, but it’s just missing … something. I’m not sure what and I feel like this is a book I could have really loved, but I just didn’t get excited about it as much as I had about other books I’ve read recently. I didn’t have a problem picking it up it just wasn’t more.