You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.First novel?! If Erin Morganstern produces again what she pulled off with The Night Circus, she’ll be the one working magic. The hype on this one is well worth it.I’ll quickly say that a book about a circus wasn’t high on my list. I decided to read this book based on a few glowing reviews and a promise to myself to abandon it at the first mention of a clown. Within 30 pages I’d decided that I’d just read past the clowns if they appeared because I was hooked that quickly. What begins as a sort of magical schoolyard dare between two illusionists quickly develops into a densely populated circus filled with fanciful tents, wondrous performers, and a long-burning romance. The descriptions of this sublime night circus do just what they should: present a well-defined stage on which the characters maneuver. Out of all the tents, I’ll confess the Ice Garden is the one I’d like to see come to life. Talk of paper animals, tarot cards, and sleight of hand all added to the emotion of the story.The characters that traverse the circus are numerous and varied. The focus shifts quickly from the childhoods of Celia and Marco to their adult lives. Short chapters rush us through what could become overwrought descriptions of a hard-luck life. We grow to know Marco as a controller of many things: books, accounts, his increasingly confused boss, and even the circus. There’s a cloud of melancholia that hangs over Marco throughout the book and one of the few complaints I have is that I’d like to have seen him be a bit more developed. I was left wanting to know more about him.Celia, on the other hand, felt richly nuanced and fleshed out. Her strength - both in magic and in navigating her challenging life – was one of my favorite parts of the book. She had a level of compassion I didn’t expect for one with so much power. I especially enjoyed how she seemed to stand apart from her illusions; how she understood them for what they were and didn’t expect more from them.With such a large band of players in the circus, it could have been a challenge to keep them all sorted out. The author did a good job of touching on at least one unique behavior from those she deemed important to the storyline. Herr Friedrick Thiessen and his love of clocks (and the circus) was a favorite as he seemed to represent those of us who admire but are forced to stand outside of that which we love. Poppet and Widget, the red-headed twins whose lives are started and in all likelihood, ended, by the circus also rank high. One sees the future and the other reads the past. Intriguing. Bailey – the real everyman here – does the thing we may all wish ourselves brave enough to do: step away from the mundane and immerse ourselves in the magical.There’s a whole lot going on in this book. Without inspiration to stay involved, a reader could drift away. I didn’t have that problem but the jumps in time and the out-of-time insertions (which all make sense in the final pages) could be enough to turn a casually involved reader off.The book closes in a way that represents all that the reader has just experienced: with a brief conversation about the importance of telling a story well. I’ve always believed that and reading The Night Circus reinforces it all the more.