Wow, what a brilliant opening! This book starts with a punch and keeps up the pace to the very end. I was enthralled. After a run of mediocre reads, this was a real breath of fresh air. The images of the circus and the thinly veiled feeling of magic at every turn were astounding. This was impossible to put down.
The two main protagonists are pitted against each other from childhood, Celia and Marco don't have any say in the matter. Celia's father and Marco's adopted father have a longstanding challenge and neither is prepared to give way. The challenge is played out by the two proteges in the medium of the circus.
Although the plot is the backbone of the novel, it is the atmosphere of magic that is so brilliantly evoked that drew me in from the beginning. For me, magic is a delicate thing and the chances are I'll find it cheesy or unbelievable, so I have great admiration for an author who can achieve this delicate balance.
The images of the circus tents, each one containing a different act that can be visited at will, remains with me still. It has a very Cirque de Soleil feel about it. The descriptions of the various performances; magic pretending to be slight of hand, wishing trees, the labyrinth, the ice garden, were all brilliantly evoked. The writing was pure pleasure and I think I'm going to have to read this again at some time.
Definitely more than five stars!