This book is already published, and is pretty popular, but I read it as a galley. So it counts as a galley.
'The Night Circus' came off to a fantastic first impression. Kudos to you, Ms. Morgenstern! It's an enchanting book, dark and beautiful. It plays with words as an illusionist does: It's a dream-like book, full of metaphors and magic.
It begins with a scene, describing the arrival of Le Cirque des Rêves - the Circus of Dreams. It is mysterious, and it is only open at night. The crowd builds over the day, and when it finally opens, the circus turns out to be a world of its own. There is the tattooed contortionist, the acrobats that fly without a net underneath, a Garden of Ice, and, the female protagonist, an illusionist that works without props. I quote, “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”
The plot of the book is centered around a battle between two illusionists - people who work with real magic and make it look like illusions. Their battle is arranged by their teachers, and through the contract, they must fight, not knowing why they're fighting, what their goal is, and, in the beginning, who their opponent is. They fall in love, though, and their love is tangled and difficult, as love tends to be. There's madness, beauty, emotional instability, blood, twins, and tigers. It's basically the best circus in the world.
As I said, it came off to a wonderful start for me. After I read it the second time, though, it was more disappointing. The characters, other than the two illusionists, are too flat - they fit the stereotypes they are built into. The Japanese contortionist covered in tattoos is hiding an important secret, and **SPOILER** she has magic as well - surprise surprise! **/SPOILER** She... doesn't really have a personality, other than mysterious. The fortune-teller is also no more than mysterious, other than **SPOILER** tragically sad and angry when the male protagonist breaks up with her. **/SPOILER** To be honest, a lot of the characters seem to be no more than mysterious. There aren't enough... flaws, characteristics to build off of.
Then, there's the system of magic. I feel there isn't enough of the magic, which is pretty much one of the center points of the book. There are barely any processes, dangerous side effects, sacrifices - what makes a lot of magic books fun. No, there's just staring, and the blood seeps back into the cut, and it heals. The competitors never hurt each other, and there isn't any real magical fighting. Blah.
There are enchanting scenes, though, built through simple sentences and strangely described details.
Overall - 4, and a cheap dark chocolate bar. Delicious, because chocolate is just delicious, but a flavor that could definitely be better. Made too sweet, and less flavorful, through a bit of cliche, and hiding the flavors that really shine.