My .02 -
I couldn't disagree more. I'm huge into the old style magicians, so perhaps my bias shines through. In any case, I loved the very subtle ties to the real goings-on of that time. If you know you're history, they will be obvious, but I got a grand kick out of them nonetheless.
Carter in his youth (the beginning of the novel) moves a little slow, but it is essential for the rest of the story to have some heart behind it.
As he grows and things happen in his life, his character gets stronger, something that most authors today are incapable of. Once he came into his own as a full-fledged magician, I had to finish the book. I haven't been drawn in to a novel like that in a long time...
Incidentally, I noticed the other day that Stanley Tucci does the book on tape version. I'm not a grand connosieur of audio books, but for my money Stanley Tucci is as good as they come.