The Night Circus arrives unannounced, and without warning, the black and white striped tents appearing as if by magic. It's only open at night, and closes at dawn. Within the monochrome circus are the most amazing wonders imaginable - acrobats, trained animals, contortionists, fortune tellers, fairground rides where the animals you ride on seem to move, illusionists and more. Le Cirque des Rêves, once experienced is never forgotten.
Unbeknownst to most people, even the inhabitants of the circus, there is a magician's duel taking place behind the scenes. Celia and Marco, both trained from childhood, are magically bound to compete, with the circus and its members as their arena, until one of them emerges victorious. Neither of them chose this themselves, Celia's father and Marco's mentor have had magical battles through proxies multiple times before, but both are bound, long before they even know the rules, or where or how the battle is to take place. They finally meet, and fall in love, making their duel all the more difficult.
Yet The Night Circus is not really a romance. The main focus of the book is absolutely the circus itself, and the story of Marco and Celia's contest is only part of it. The circus becomes their magical playing field, where they strive to outdo, and later, to impress and express their feelings for each other. However, the book is about the people that founded the circus in the first place, about several of the people who are affected by it all over the world, about the extraordinary twins born within the circus on its opening day, and about one young American man who is particularly affected by it.
The Night Circus is a magical and lovely book which entertained me greatly, but I suspect it is not for everyone, and some people may find it overly twee and very annoying. It's set in Victorian times, but is obviously full of magic. The writing is almost lyrical at times, very poetic and descriptive, especially when it comes to describing the atmosphere of the circus itself. Don't read it if all you want is an epic romance, you will be disappointed. If you liked The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, then you may also like this. If you hated them, or weren't able to finish them for one reason or another, I would read something else instead.