The Night Circus tells the story of two illusionists, Celia and Marco, that were bound to each other by their sponsors to compete in a competition of magical skill. As children, they both train to compete against each other, and the competition will go on until the end of one (or both) of their lives. Both illusionists are given little information about their opponent, and only know that the competition exists and that they are expected to be the victor. The setting is, as one might gather from the title, a circus that is only open at night. It's a traveling circus that travels between countries and continents and those that follow the circus around the world and attend as often as they can are called reveurs.
This story timeless, spaceless, intangible, and whimsical. It's in its own world and grabs you and keeps you there. I wish I could visit the circus and travel along with it as a reveur. I will say that it helps if you read this book with a suspension of disbelief- while the various attractions that Celia and Marco are described beautifully, there's a lot of whimsy to them.
There was a quote toward the end that will stick with me. I don't want to give too much of a spoiler, but the general idea is that one of the characters is comparing his talents to someone else's. He's lamenting the fact that he's a storyteller, a talent that he finds less important and fascinating than the talents people have around him. The person he's talking to reminds him that someone needs to be there to pass on the story, and that stories are "in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict." Amen to that.
Rating: A definitive 5 out of 5
Added to my Best-of-the-Best list.