by Erin Morgenstern
New York: Doubleday, 2011.
This is one of those books that is difficult enough to describe while you're reading it, but even harder to do so without spoilers when it's finished. But I'll try, in any case. One day, Hector Bowen - better known by his stage name, Prospero the Magician - comes back from a show to see that his daughter, Celia, is left to him since her mother committed suicide. He has little interest in his child, until he discovers that she has a propensity for magic. Not illusion, but real magic, the ability to affect the world around her. He decides to teach her, and when his friend, a nameless man in a grey suit, comes calling, they decide to play another round in their game: Celia Bowen will be pitted against another, a protegee of the grey suit man's choosing, in a venue as yet to be determined. Interspersed with this story are glimpses of a mysterious circus that pops in and out of town without warning, that opens at dusk and closes at dawn.
Would it be too cliche to call this book magical? The various threads of the story, which is not told entirely chronologically, spin a fantastic web of a fully realized world. I really enjoyed the fully-rounded characters, and found myself wishing I could sit in on a Midnight Dinner. The details of the circus are wonderfully evocative; I wanted to go there and taste the caramel and chocolate mice and cocoa, to see the various acts and tents. Because what this story has most of all is atmosphere. I entirely forgive the almost leisurely pacing of the plot, because sitting for any length of time really getting sunk into the story was a truly incredible, enthralling experience. This is definitely a story I would read again, and I wager I would come away with a different understanding each time.