It's an understatement to say that The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern did all these things and more.
"The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.
But it is not open for business. Not just yet."
This excerpt, taken from the prologue to the novel lures you into a mysterious world which exists within and alongside our own. A circus open only from dusk until dawn, one which appears suddenly and without warning and disappears just as suddenly. The opening descriptions of the circus make you want to dive headlong into this strange and mysterious world Morgenstern is luring you into.
The book is about the circus, yes. But more specifically it is about Celia and Marco, two people which have been caught up in a mysterious competition between their respective teachers, a game in which they are merely pawns.
I don't want to say too much about this book. If I do, it'll ruin it.
But be warned, if you open this book, be prepared to not be able to put it down. I read it in a span of only about 24 hours, and am seriously considering reading it again. Be prepared to sacrifice sleep in favor of this book.
And at the end, be prepared to find yourself still wanting to know more about these brilliant characters and the world they live in.
If you only read one book this year, let it be The Night Circus.