I'm absolutely perplexed here... where has all the of the hype surrounding this book come from? I've never felt compelled to write a review for anything on Amazon before, and I may not again. But I have to add my input here because I feel completely confused by all the newspaper reviews and the media praise surrounding this book's release. I was dazzled by the excitement, so I bought this after obtaining a sample on my Kindle, and was convinced it would be an entertaining story based on that short passage. But as a few other reviewers mentioned, the story completely falters after those beginning chapters.
The author seems driven to the point of obsession with visual descriptions, which are extremely beautiful and sensory. I was entranced with some of the scenery, fragrances, sounds, and effects. The author should have extended these carefully rendered details to her characters, but instead she leaves the reader with a superficial impression of every single character in the book. As I continued to read, I hoped I might warm to any of the characters, but there is really nothing to care about.
The two main characters, Celia and Marco, could have been stamped out of any number of different genres that feature a sodden romance. Their dialogue, connection, and passion are tepid and uninspired at best. They bleat at one another, first in a failed effort to establish some tension and distrust between the two, later in sudden, unaccountable declarations of love. The only qualities each are enraptured of in the other? Their "magical" abilities, skills, talents, or whatever you choose to call it.
Marco is sly and weak. He uses his first interest, Isobel, without offering more than a token apology. His employer, Chandresh, is also swept aside in Marco's quest to achieve his ends. Marco uses Chandresh for over a decade, living in his home, dolling out his money, etc. Finally the day comes when a now alcoholic Chandresh confronts his employee, and what does the valiant Marco do? Mess with Chandresh's mind (which has already taken a few reality hits) and hand him another bottle of liquor. I'm sorry but how am I supposed to hope for this man to actually have a happy ending with his love interest?
Not that his love interest is much better. Celia is a ragdoll, happy to take verbal abuse from her father, content to lie to anyone and everyone, and ready to be a pawn in the game she's thrown into. Poor, downtrodden Celia. Her finger hurts when she tries to break free from her commitment, so obviously she shouldn't pursue as many means of escape as possible. No, she should just start weaving her noose right now.
Mind you, neither of the two lovers take extreme measures to try and break away from their entrapment. They simply continue to make grand gestures within the confines of their environment. Both Celia and Marco allow most of their important choices to be made for them. Celia cries to her father to free her because she loves Marco, Marco cries to his caretaker to free him because he loves Celia. And that's it.
These are pretty characters who live in a remarkably pretty world with only an awkward attempt at mystery and drama to keep the story plowing along. The dialogue feels very immature despite the attempts to disguise it as intellectual and restrained. Many times I felt like it was plucked from a soap opera. There's no real fight to the death here. The opponents simply create homages to the other while driving themselves insane until one or the other decides to commit suicide apparently. Or unless one of them just caves, concedes, hands the other a "you're better than I am" badge? Mystical and romantic. Really.
The pace of the entire book flows sedately, never altering its rhythm. There's no climax or compulsive page-turning appeal. I held on as long as I did because I hate leaving a book unfinished, and also because I clung to the hope that a spectacular ending was waiting in the wings.
At the end, many of the characters tumble into their situations through no choice of their own, simply handed their future with a bright red bow and they all simply accept it. The circus has killed two people, driven a few mad, caused torment to a variety of characters, but it's pretty and mystical. There's no real repercussions for any of the characters who purposely cause death and torment. All of the circus's members are supporting players for Celia and Marco, entrapped by this alternate reality, yet those that are aware of it don't seem to truly mind. Even Isobel, someone who could reasonably be forgiven for striking out at either Marcus or Celia, cannot possibly do anything or hate anyone because Celia is "nice." Marco and Celia TRULY love each other, so Isobel walks away with a "hey, Marco, be happy because you deserve it" attitude. The circus is "home" to its members, so they, too, are ok with staying within its world and serving Marco and Celia's love affair. And the reason behind this game is absolutely absurd and superficial as well. The manner in which Marco and Celia's story is concluded is truly awful. This has been done before, and much better.
Despite most of the flaws, this does have a light charm. Mainly in the aforementioned descriptive passages. But it feels like a decorative story at best. I can see how a movie could create some stunning visuals with this, but good luck with the characters.