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A circus, titled Le Cirque des Rêves, comes to town out of the blue and without warning. Within its tents, young magicians Celia and Marco compete to be the best, having done so since childhood. However, under the backdrop of their intense rivalry, a blossoming romance develops.
Set around the turn of the 20th century, the Night Circus tells the story of Le Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams), and the cast of characters involved in its initial creation and then its operation. Central to this group are the young Conjurer Celia, and Marco, the personal assistant to the man who founds the circus. The Circus has an interesting and somewhat sinister appearance: There is no color in the circus: everything from the tents to the costumes of the performers are black and white; The Circus appears without warning on an unpublished schedule, is only open from sunset to sunrise, and bears an ominous sign for those who would sneak in during the day: "trespassers will be exsanguinated". But of course all is not as it initially appears, for in this circus magic truely is real, and many of the illusions are nothing of the sort...
The night circus contains a colorful and eclectic cast of characters and covers much more than two decades of in-story time. As a result the teenage Celia of the early book is much older by the end and the bailey twins, born on opening day of the circus, are teenagers themselves by the end. It must be noted here that The Night Circus is actually a work of adult, and not young adult fiction. It is, however, also a winner of the American Library Associations Alex Award. The Alex Award is an award given out annually to honor ten books published for adults that are judged to have special appeal for readers in the 12-18 age range.