The Night Circus

Marco Alisdair Character Analysis

Marco Alisdair works as the assistant to Chandresh Lefevre, the original organizer of Le Cirque des Rêves. He is also involved in a high-stakes competition with Celia Bowen, orchestrated by their guardians, to determine who is the better magician. As a young boy, Marco was plucked from an orphanage by Mr. A.H. and trained in the art of magic. He spent most of his youth in isolation, reading and practicing, and was set free at 19 to begin his competition. When he watches Celia Bowen audition for Le Cirque des Rêves, he knows immediately that she is his opponent, and that the circus is to be the arena for their competition. Marco was an excellent student—Mr. A.H. notes that he was probably the best he ever had—but when he meets Celia, he is unsure if he can win the competition, or if he even wants to. Marco enlists the help of Isobel Martin, a beautiful young fortune teller who is in love with him: she travels with the circus to keep and eye on Celia and the magic she performs, reporting back to Marco in London whenever she can. Soon, however, Isobel realizes that she is no longer helping Marco watch over his opponent, but rather the object of his affection, and she leaves the circus for good, leaving the two magicians free to fall in love. Their guardians strongly disapprove of the pair’s romantic involvement, as Celia and Marco soon begin working together rather than competing against one another. Eventually, the lovers jump into the bonfire at the center of Le Cirque des Rêves, trapping themselves inside of the circus indefinitely and forfeiting the competition that would have torn them apart.

Marco Alisdair Quotes in The Night Circus

The The Night Circus quotes below are all either spoken by Marco Alisdair or refer to Marco Alisdair. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Night Circus published in 2012.
Part 1: Primordium Quotes

“You will be coming to study with me […].”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Do you wish to remain here?”

“No.”

“Very well.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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“What am I bound to?”

“An obligation you already had, and a person you will not meet for some time.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rings
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I owe you my deepest gratitude, Miss…?”

“Martin. Isobel Martin.”

“Marco, Marco Alisdair.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Isobel Martin (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“[…] with whom have you studied?”

“With my father, Hector Bowen. Though perhaps he is better known as Prospero the Enchanter.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Marco Alisdair (speaker), Hector Bowen / Prospero the Enchanter
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: Illumination Quotes

“I’m not certain I understand the rules.”

“You don’t need to understand the rules. You need to follow them. As I said, your work has been sufficient.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“How much do you know?”

“How much do I know about what?”

“How much has Miss Bowen told you?”

“You’re her opponent. I never would have guessed.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Ethan Barris (speaker), Celia Bowen
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I spent the first several years of my life watching my mother pine for him, steadfastly. Loving and longing far beyond the time when he had lost what little interest in her he ever held. Until one day when I was five years old and she took her own life. When I was old enough to understand, I promised myself I would not suffer so for anyone. It will take a great deal more than that charming smile of yours to seduce me.”

Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3: Intersections Quotes

“Thirteen years with barely a word and now you wish to speak with me?”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Celia Bowen, Alexander / Mr. A.H.
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I cannot leave. I am not allowed. I must remain here, and I must continue with this nonsense, as you so aptly put it. You are going to return to your drinking and your parties and you will not even remember that we had this conversation.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Chandresh Lefevre
Related Symbols: The Bonfire
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Are you looking for this? It was made by a ring when I was fourteen. It said something in Latin, but I don’t know what it was.”

Esse quam videri. To be, rather than to seem. It’s the Bowen family motto. My father was very fond of engraving it on things. I’m not entirely sure he appreciated the irony.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Marco Alisdair (speaker), Hector Bowen / Prospero the Enchanter
Related Symbols: Rings
Page Number: 348
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I tried. I thought I might be able to fix it. I’ve known him so long. That maybe it would be like setting a clock to make it tick again. I knew exactly what was wrong but I couldn’t make it right. He was so familiar but it… it didn’t work.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Marco Alisdair, Friedrick Thiessen
Page Number: 385
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4: Incendiary Quotes

“Do you love him?”

“I do.”

“Do you believe he loves you? Love is fickle and fleeting. It is rarely a solid foundation for decisions to be made upon, in any game.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Tsukiko (speaker), Marco Alisdair
Page Number: 406
Explanation and Analysis:
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“You were not a diversion.”

“Did you ever love me?”

“No […] I thought perhaps I could, but…”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Isobel Martin (speaker)
Page Number: 446
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Our instructors do not understand how it is. To be bound to someone in such a way. They are too old, too out of touch with their emotions. They no longer remember what it is to live and breathe within the world. They think it simple to pit any two people against each other. It is never simple. The other person becomes how you define your life, how you define yourself.”

Page Number: 458
Explanation and Analysis:
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“You told me love was fickle and fleeting.”

“I lied. I thought it might be easier if you doubted him. And I gave you a year to find a way for the circus to continue without you. You have not. I am stepping in.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Tsukiko (speaker), Marco Alisdair
Page Number: 461
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 5: Divination Quotes

“You think being imprisoned marvelous?”

“It’s a matter of perspective. They have each other. They are confined within a space that is remarkable, one that can, and will, grow and change around them.”

Related Characters: Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker), Widget Murray (speaker), Celia Bowen, Marco Alisdair
Page Number: 502
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Marco Alisdair Character Timeline in The Night Circus

The timeline below shows where the character Marco Alisdair appears in The Night Circus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Primordium
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...he goes back to find a young woman reading it earnestly. He introduces himself as Marco Alisdair, the name he has chosen for himself, and she tells him her name is... (full context)
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Back in Marco’s flat, Marco shows Isobel a magic charm involving knots and intent. He asks her to... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Isobel hides in the study while Marco answers the door. Mr. A.H. does not enter, but stands in the doorway to inform... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...sign of failure. He throws the knife for the last time, and then calls for Marco, his assistant. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...organizers are holding auditions for an illusionist, and Celia Bowen is one of the candidates. Marco is supervising the auditions, and when he sees Celia for the first time, he is... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Marco is visibly shaken by his meeting with Celia, and Chandresh sends him home. He hurries... (full context)
Part 2: Illumination
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
In the meantime, Marco is nervous and impatient for the lighting of the bonfire, which he has organized. Ever... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...small tweaks to what is already a breathtaking show. Right before midnight, he looks for Marco but cannot find him, and he bumps into the Burgess sisters, Tara and Lainie, instead.... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Marco’s only opportunity to see Mr. A.H., his guardian and teacher, is at the Midnight Dinners... (full context)
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Marco is frustrated by the letters he gets from Isobel because he wants to know more... (full context)
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When the circus comes back around to London again, Isobel comes to Marco’s flat to visit. She knocks on the door, and when he opens it she notes... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Paris, 1891: Marco shows up at Isobel’s tent unannounced, holding a notebook open to a drawing of a... (full context)
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Trying to help, Isobel tells Marco that he can do what he wants to the Wishing Tree now that he knows... (full context)
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Frustrated, Isobel asks how long the competition will go on, and Marco says he doesn’t know and asks if she would like to leave the circus. She... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Isobel wonders if it is Ethan Barris who created the Wishing Tree. Marco responds that this is beyond the work of impressive mechanics, just as the Carousel must... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
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...their work. Hector grudgingly agrees, but reminds her not to trust anyone. At that moment, Marco gently informs Celia that dinner is about to begin, and her father vanishes. Aware that... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
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...observes her fellow guests in an attempt to discern the relationships and feelings between them. Marco maintains a quiet distance from the guests, but the more that Chandresh drinks, the more... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
...goes on, there are lighthearted jokes about unlacing Celia’s corset, and even the usually reserved Marco chimes in this time. As Celia leaves with Tsukiko, Marco watches her through the window.... (full context)
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Marco goes to visit Mr. Barris in his London office, to talk about the circus, and... (full context)
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Marco has come to see Mr. Barris to ask for his assistance with a new tent.... (full context)
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...for the circus in his office, and he tells her that he left them with Marco in London and forgot about them. She asks if he forgets other plans in this... (full context)
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Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...spite of the umbrella earlier. Just as she realizes that this is not her umbrella, Marco runs up to her, completely soaked from the rain, with her identical looking umbrella in... (full context)
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Celia stares at Marco, putting the pieces together in her mind: his ability to blend seamlessly into the background,... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...leave for the night. When she is finally ready to give up, she sees that Marco is holding it. She magically transports the shawl from Marco’s arms to around her shoulders... (full context)
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Celia and Marco begin to talk about magic, or “manipulation,” as she calls it, starting with the white... (full context)
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Marco notes that his charm does not seem to have worked as effectively on Celia, and... (full context)
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Celia tells Marco that he reminds her of her father, Hector, who also manipulates perception. She tells him... (full context)
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Marco offers Celia a tour of Chandresh’s house, and they begin in the game room, which... (full context)
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Marco then takes out a deck of cards, and they perform small magic tricks for one... (full context)
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Marco brings Celia into a sunken garden room that he has made for Chandresh, in order... (full context)
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They sink into cushions together and share their favorite tents—Marco’s favorite is Celia’s, of course, while Celia loves the Ice Garden because she feels like... (full context)
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Celia asks Marco how he keeps everyone from aging, and he asks her how she moves the circus.... (full context)
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Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Marco wishes he could protect the people outside the circus, like the late Tara Burgess, the... (full context)
Part 3: Intersections
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
As Celia passes by Marco in the hall, he grabs her hand, and they are both taken aback by the... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Marco moves their conversation into the game room, where he asks what Mr. A.H. suddenly wants,... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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Marco throws a billiard ball at Mr. A.H., who steps out of the way as the... (full context)
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...start anything new. The circus has begun to bother him, and his thoughts wander to Marco’s office to look at the paperwork. When he pulls out plans for the circus, he... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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At that moment, Marco appears in the doorway and asks what Chandresh is doing. Chandresh is startled, but composes... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...longer any papers or ledgers in the office. He then waves the brandy bottle in Marco’s face and tries to fire him, but Marco makes the bottle disappear and says that... (full context)
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Dublin, 1901: After the end of the illusionist’s performance, one man stays behind. Marco asks Celia if she likes the Cloud Maze, which she does, and she asks if... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Celia steps closer to Marco. He puts his hand around her waist and spins her around to see the fabric... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...a winner will be chosen. She mentions that Hector still pesters her a lot, and Marco notes that he has hardly seen Mr. A.H. in years, but he is still the... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Marco asks Celia to explain what happened to Hector, and she explains that he is overambitious... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...muses that she doesn’t think she would want to be stuck in a tree forever. Marco responds that it would depend on the tree, looking around at the tree that Celia... (full context)
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Celia looks down at the fingers of Marco’s right hand, and he reveals the scar on his finger from the ring Mr. A.H.... (full context)
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Marco asks Celia if Mr. A.H. gave the ring and scar to her, and she says... (full context)
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Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...other as the wind and waves die down around them. Celia apologizes for not letting Marco kiss her, telling him that she has spent her life trying to keep control of... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
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Marco doesn’t understand, so Celia asks him to imagine them leaving the circus and the competition... (full context)
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Marco smiles through the pain, delighted that Celia wanted to run away with him. He laughs,... (full context)
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Marco asks what is stopping them from being together, and Celia reminds him that there are... (full context)
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London, 1901: When the circus arrives in London, Celia wants to go to see Marco immediately, but instead goes to the Midland Grand Hotel. She waits in the lobby for... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...patrons donning masks handed out by the ticket booth. Isobel is in her tent when Marco comes through the beaded curtain. He has come to tell her that he is in... (full context)
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After Marco leaves, Isobel reaches under her table and takes out a hatbox made from black silk... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Isobel thinks about how Marco told Mr. A.H. that everything he has done in the circus was for Celia, and... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...crowd a few times. He is not aware that he is also being followed, and Marco has disguised his looks enough that his boss would not recognize him even if he... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Carousel, and strolls through the Ice Garden. Chandresh follows him through the entire night, and Marco follows Chandresh, slipping away for a moment to take care of some business. Mr. A.H.... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Celia suddenly feels faint and needs assistance from the audience to stay on her feet. Marco crumples as if he has been punched in the stomach. Chandresh pulls out his silver... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...then pulls the knife from the man’s chest, stands up, and walks away, silently handing Marco the bloody knife as he passes him. (full context)
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Mr. A.H. notes incredulously that perhaps Hector hasn’t noticed that Marco and Celia are in love, and that it only would have happened sooner if they... (full context)
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...will not happen again, because she will win, because “she is a stronger player” than Marco is. But Mr. A.H. amplifies the sounds coming from near Thiessen, so that Hector can... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Later that evening, Marco is in his flat, which is full of furniture that Chandresh has abandoned and so... (full context)
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...in blood. She comes in and the door shuts and locks itself behind her, and Marco asks her what happened and if she is all right. She responds that no, she... (full context)
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Marco tells Celia that something threw everything off balance, but he does not know what it... (full context)
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He doesn’t know why Mr. A.H. was at the circus, but Celia tells Marco that she invited him because she wanted a verdict. She wanted him to declare a... (full context)
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Celia looks around at Marco’s work and asks him what it is. The books are full of symbols and notes,... (full context)
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Marco tells her he is sorry for her loss, that he didn’t know Thiessen as well... (full context)
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Marco leads Celia into the adjoining room, which he has filled with models of tents made... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...She finishes her tour and leaves the room, closing the door behind her and thanking Marco for showing her. Marco tells her that he presumes Hector would not approve, and she... (full context)
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Celia asks Marco to stop talking about the competition. She says that she is tired of trying to... (full context)
Part 4: Incendiary
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Celia is lying in Marco’s arms, wishing this moment would never end. She manages to slow down his heartbeat enough... (full context)
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Celia takes Marco’s notebook with her as she leaves Marco’s flat, and as soon as she is out... (full context)
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...agrees, though he finds it a simplification. Devastated, she turns back to the door of Marco’s flat, and places her hand on the door. Hector ridicules her for believing she loves... (full context)
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...grey smoke. On board the train, Celia changes out of her bloody gown and puts Marco’s notebook away among her own. Wearing a gown that she knows was one of Thiessen’s... (full context)
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Tsukiko asks Celia if she loves Marco, and Celia says that she does. Tsukiko then asks if she believes that Marco loves... (full context)
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...Herr Thiessen, but it would be complicated to make it completely independent of Celia and Marco. She notes that Celia has taken on too much responsibility for it all, and if... (full context)
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...audience leaves, there is one man sitting, waiting for her. She sits down across from Marco and tells him that he usually sits in the back. He asks her if she... (full context)
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Celia tells Marco that she is trying to make the circus independent, to untie it from the challenge... (full context)
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Marco realizes that Celia is not looking him in the eye, and asks if she doesn’t... (full context)
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Marco asks if Celia thinks he is cruel enough to do such a thing to her,... (full context)
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Celia tells Marco that the competition has to kill one of them, and when Marco doesn’t understand, she... (full context)
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Marco tells her that he doesn’t want to win, he just wants Celia, even though she... (full context)
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Celia pulls away and tells him that she is sorry. Marco holds on to her, begging her not to leave him. She tells him that it... (full context)
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Back in her room, Celia attempts once again to decipher Marco’s notebook. The raven caws, and Celia addresses her father, who has shown up, hovering over... (full context)
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Hector replies that Celia is special, and well beyond the kind of magic that  Marco is doing. There is so much more that she could be doing, he notes. Celia... (full context)
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Marco uses ink to inscribe an A on the window of his flat, and waits for... (full context)
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In London, Isobel stands on the street in front of Marco’s flat, waiting for hours for him to return. When he sees her, he asks what... (full context)
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...but she thought it was Thiessen, and didn’t realize until that night that it was Marco. Celia loved Thiessen, as well, though, and lost him because of Isobel. Isobel felt like... (full context)
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Isobel and Marco stand in the street in silence for a long time, and then Marco starts up... (full context)
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Isobel tells Marco about a boy she read for recently, and everything was in his cards. It was... (full context)
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Marco falls to the ground in a cloud of black ash, coughing from the impact. He... (full context)
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Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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Marco asks where everyone is, and Tsukiko tells him they are at an inclement-weather party. He... (full context)
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Tsukiko tells Marco that their teachers do not understand how it feels to be so intimately tied to... (full context)
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Marco tells her he is sorry, and Tsukiko informs him that Celia was planning to do... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...and Tsukiko tells her that she has been surrounded by the love letters she and Marco have built for each other, in the form of tents, and it reminds her of... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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Time and Mortality Theme Icon
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...Celia is the greater loss to the circus, because she carries it within herself, while Marco uses the fire as a tool. Celia just asks for more time, but Tsukiko refuses.... (full context)
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Marco tells Tsukiko to go ahead with her plan, and she bows to him and flicks... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
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...She notices that she is whole, but that everyone around her is transparent, and that Marco is nowhere to be seen. Marco loses Celia in the moment of the explosion. She... (full context)
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They hold each other as Celia tells Marco that she couldn’t let him go without her, and he asks her how she did... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
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...Bailey wonders if it is a figment of his imagination. The man introduces himself as Marco. Bailey asks if he is dead, and Marco replies, “not precisely.” Bailey asks him what... (full context)
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Marco then explains that Tsukiko tried to imprison him in the bonfire, and there was a... (full context)
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Marco leads Bailey into the acrobat tent, but instead of the wide-open space he is used... (full context)
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...As they wait for Bailey to answer, the candles flicker, and Celia starts to sway. Marco has to steady her. Bailey asks what he needs to do, and Celia tells him... (full context)
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...than Harvard, or even the farm, but he knows his answer anyway. He agrees, and Marco asks if they can make it official, because he is not willing to settle for... (full context)
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Bailey finds Celia’s room in the circus and searches through the books to find Marco’s notebook. He pulls out the pages with Poppet and Widget’s names on them and adds... (full context)
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...wraps the items up in the yarn, and throws it in the cauldron. He sees Marco’s bowler hat next to the cauldron and adds that, and impulsively pulls everything out of... (full context)
Part 5: Divination
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As they look through the blueprints, Chandresh starts to call for Marco. He tells Poppet that his assistant just left one day and did not come back,... (full context)
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...way to get them out of it. He misses his student, however, and notes that Marco was possibly the best student he ever had. Widget asks if he thinks Marco is... (full context)
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Widget explains to Mr. A.H. that Marco and Celia are not dead, and they are inside of the circus. When Widget describes... (full context)
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...to be able to accept the inevitability of mortality, just as he hopes Celia and Marco will. (full context)