Last night when I finished the book (whew! just in time...) I gave the book 3 stars — "I liked it." Today I'm rethinking that rating and think that the writing alone may make it deserving of a 4-star rating — it really was well-written. The imagery, without a doubt, is amazing but I thought that it replaced the plot instead of enhancing/complementing it, which is what I would have preferred.
The plot dragged a little for me. The description of the book talks about a "fierce competition" where "only one can be left standing." Doesn't happen. There was no urgency, no sense of anticipation or anxiety. In a way, it was anti-climactic — nothing ever really happened. The book spanned thirty years and either player could go at whatever pace they wished.
Was anyone else bothered that Marco, despite supposedly being madly, deeply in love Celia, continued to see someone else but we never really knew why? I thought the love story was underdeveloped, to the the point that I wondered if their feelings were even real, or just another manipulation of the game.
I loved the secondary characters in this book, especially Widget and Poppet (I see that I am not alone in this ). I also really liked Bailey and Tsukiko and don't think the circus would have been as magical without any of them.
Lastly, I don't know how the psychotic, batshitcrazy "father figures" who trained Celia and Marco have gone unmentioned. I really would have loved to have seen them face some consequences, or even meet a grisly end, for what they did to those poor children. Remember, Celia and Marco weren't the only ones. Those men had been experimenting for years, using innocent children as pawns.