Make no mistake here. The magic is real, though the magicians have to pretend it's just legerdemain in order not to frighten the public. With real magic, anything is possible, so we get a story of escalating marvels. And since the pupils are male and female, we get a love story, too.
The Night Circus is full of characters and incident, but Morgenstern's style is clear, and the story flows in short chapters. My friend George Kelley found this book tough going, but I found it fairly entertaining. Even at that, I'm not sure why it's getting such a big push when I find other fantasy novels (like just about any fantasy by Jack Vance) that are more compelling are shoved off into the genre ghetto. I guess that's just the way of the world.