Le Cirque des Rêves, it's called. It pops up, seemingly in an instant, in a field. It opens when night falls, closes at dawn. It has no published schedule, so any night may be its last. And it's like nothing you've seen before--everything, even the grass around the tents, is in shades of black and white. It smells of popcorn and caramel, but somehow better than any other popcorn or caramel. And the performers--the contortionist, the illusionist, the fortune teller. If you didn't know better, you'd swear it was magic. And, of course, it is. Two young people--Celia, the illusionist, and Marco, the assistant to the owner of the circus--are making it all possible, making the entire circus happen. But it's all a game; they don't know how the winner will be decided, they don't know the stakes, they don't know the rules. All they know is that each time one of them performs magic, it's a move on the metaphorical chessboard.
I actually listened to this as an audiobook during my commute, and I don't think it works quite as well in that format as it would have on paper. Jim Dale narrated, and was amazing, so it wasn't the reader. It's just...this book is all atmosphere. Atmosphere and the beautiful, beautiful language. There's not much of a plot. The characters are nicely drawn, but you don't care about them as much as you care about the circus. To care about the book, you have to love, breathe, Le Cirque des Rêves. And it's hard to really focus like that when you're also, you know, changing lanes and avoiding potholes.
But it is a gorgeous, gorgeous books. My favorite parts were actually the Bailey & Poppet & Widget bits. I totally 'ship Bailey/Poppet. Adorable.