Celia Bowen is the daughter of famous magician, Hector Bowen (stage name: "Prospero the Enchanter"). However, she was only introduced to him at the age of five, when she was left in his care after her mother committed suicide. At first, her father is shown to have little interest in his daughter or her mother, however, his interest is piqued when Celia accidentally shatters a teacup by magic.
Celia's arrival is what prompts Hector to challenge his former teacher Mr. A.H- in another round of a mysterious, long running competition between them. As the challenge involves the two training individual students, Hector chooses to train Celia as his protégé, confident that her natural magical abilities will triumph over anything that Mr. A.H-'s protégé could ever do.
Celia is brought into a meeting between her father and a man wearing a grey suit to which her father refers to as "Alexander". She is told by her father to show Alexander what she can do, magically. After much protest, Celia agrees and simply rotates a pocket watch on a table and levitates it. Alexander finds her trick impressive, but basic, so Celia shatters the watch, but then fixes it again in mid air. Alexander finds this much more impressive, but notes Celia's temper. Celia listens as her father states that her temper is just a product of her youth, but does inform Mr. A.H- that when she's older she would be incomparable. Alexander then tells Celia's father that he could take in any child from the street and teach them to be as comparable. Hector finds these comments to be a willingness to play the challenge, which Alexander agrees. Celia is intrigued by their discussion, but before she gets any information out of it Alexander muddles her hearing so she doesn't learn anything about the challenge she shouldn't know. With her hearing immobilized, Celia is unable to hear her father and Alexander discuss the possibilities for her father if Celia were to lose, he would lose his only daughter. Hector, however, is willing to take all the risks he needs in order to win. After this, Alexander restores her hearing and gives Celia his silver ring and puts in on her finger. A binding process commences and the ring shrinks, to Celia's pain, into her skin forming a scar. While holding her hurt finger, Celia listens as Alexander tells her father that he would need time to find a young student of his own, which Hector readily agrees to, stating that he can have all the time he needs. In the discussion of venues, Hector states that he knows a theatrical producer by the name of Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre who may be up to the job of creating something wonderous, giving Alexander the producers card. Before they convene, Celia's father states to Alexander that he wants no time limits for this challenge, also giving the latter the first move.
Afterwards, Celia tells her father of "Alexander" not being the real name of the man in the grey suit. Her father finds her knowledge of this reassuring and tells her that she is more clever than he had hoped.
Over the next few years, Celia travels around the world with her father as he performed his shows, and she is taught behind the scenes of the theatres. Hector's teaching method is shown to be extremely physical, to the point where he slices open Celia's fingertips so that she is forced to heal them. When Celia is sixteen, she is forced by Hector to work as a spritual medium, disguising her magic as the work of "restless spirits". During this period, Hector forces her to eat very little, so that she looks more convincing.
At the age of eighteen, Celia auditions for (and becomes) the circus' Illusionist, unintentionally revealing herself to her opponent, Marco Alisdair. Over the years, Celia creates many of the tents within the circus, to counteract those tents that are created by Marco, although she doesn't know the identity of her opponent. It is only in 1894 that Celia learns the identity of her opponent when she mistakenly takes Marco's enchanted umbrella from a cafe in Prague and he chases Celia down for its return. However, it isn't until 1896 that Celia truly gets to know her opponent as Marco takes Celia on a tour around Chandresh Christophe Lefevre's home and they discus the challenge and their respective lives.
At the circus' 13th anniversary party in 1899, Celia falls in love with Marco as he kisses her in the centre of Chandresh's ballroom after Marco has a heated argument with Alexander. After the kiss, Celia learns how she and Marco are forced to stay as part of the challenge - after truly considering running away with Marco, she feels a deep pain that emanates from her scar (Marco encounters the same pain a number of years later). In spite of this, Celia maintains her romance with Marco and promises to stay wih him after the challenge ends.
Unfortunately, the challenge takes its toll on Celia and she begins to break after her close friend Herr Friedrick Thiessen is accidentally killed by Chandresh in an attempt on Alexander's life on Halloween in 1901 (Celia feels particular guilt as she was the person who invited Alexander to the circus in the first place). After coming to Marco for comfort and spending the evening at his apartment, Celia takes his notebook to try and learn his methods and hopefully make the circus more independent. As she leaves the apartment, Celia has a confrontation with her father, who finally reveals the end result of the Challenge - only one of the opponents can be left alive for the challenge to truly end.
Celia also discovers that Tsukiko - the circus contortionist - took part in the challenge years ago as Alexander's student, and she confronts Tsukiko about this discovery. Tsukiko in turn suggests that Marco's love for Celia may not be completely genuine, and that it is better for them to be apart. She also advises Celia to make the circus completely independent as soon as possible or it may not last after the challenge ends.
A year later, Celia is still trying to decipher Marco's methods, and after being confronted by Marco she tells him the truth about the challenge, and how she is considering killing herself in order for Marco to succeed. Celia ends the confrontation by telling Marco to never come back and she leaves him alone inside her tent. On the one-year anniversary of Thiessen's death, the circus is closed for bad weather and Celia visits the acrobats' tent for an inclement weather party. However, she leaves the tent and walks into Marco and Tsukiko; Marco is planning to traps himself inside the courtyard cauldron in order to end the challenge, and Tsukiko is helping since Celia has not succeeded with making the circus independent. As Tsukiko throws her lighter into the bonfire, Celia runs towards Marco and clings onto him as the bonfire explodes - she manages to make herself and Marco exist in a limbo with the circus as the touchstone (an improved version of her father's failed experiment). Unfortunately, as the bonfire was blown out after the explosion, Celia carries the entire weight of supporting the circus, which is left frozen after the explosion. reuniting with Marco, Celia realises that there must be another caretaker of the circus - this turns out to be Bailey Clarke, who becomes the circus caretaker after lighting the bonfire and taking over Celia's responsibilities through binding.
After the circus is restored, Celia and Marco share a kiss under the wishing tree, and it is assumed that they stay bound to the circus forever.
As a child, Celia is described as having long, curly brown hair and large dark eyes, whose color was said to be a charcoal gray, and match those of her father. During her childhood, Hector dresses her up in beautiful gowns and she is made to appear like a doll. However, this stops after she grows too old for frilly dresses, and by the time she is a teenager, he father takes a different route: during her time as a spiritual medium, Hector makes Celia wear ragged dresses and his control over her diet causes her to almost starve - eventually, she is allowed to gain weight and become much more healthy.
When Celia auditions for the circus, her face is described as "maintaining a semblance of girlishness", even though she is nearly eighteen by this point. However, it is suggested that nobody knows how old she is. When she speaks during the auditions, her voice is desribed as calm and low, which echoes the low whisper that she had as a child Her hair is still curly,but after Tante Padva suggests that her hair is too light for the black-and-white color scheme of the circus, Celia darkens her hair colour so that it is almost black and it is assumed that this color remains for the duration of the circus.
As the people involved with the circus are aging extremely slowly due to the various enchantments, it is suggested that Celia constantly resembles how she was when she was eighteen, although by the end of the novel, Bailey notices that she is much older than she appears (as the climax of the novel happens in 1902, without the enchantments Celia would be 34 years old.)
Following the dates from the novel, Celia is two years younger than Marco.
Personality and Traits
Celia is shown to have an extremely resilient personality, yet it is known from an early age that she can be short tempered and impulsive. When she is first introduced, Celia is extremely quiet and attentive. However, her short temper is shown as she breaks a cup when Hector teases her mother. She also breaks a watch after Alexander suggests that her ability to hover objects is "basic". As she grows up, whilst Celia does follow her father's orders for the sake of the Challenge, she is not afraid to voice her opinions and argue with Hector. This develops to be a common trait with her father, although as she grows Celia does act in a more mature manner. During Celia's time at the Circus, Celia is described by Isobel Martin as being extrremely kind, which is reflected through her interactions with other people, especially the Murray Twins; in fact, excluding her father, Celia is shown to be kind and polite to everybody - however, she is also shown to lose her temper; not only with Hector, but also with Tsukiko.
Isobel also suggests that Celia reads constantly, which is a trait seen from her childhood; she used to read when she had free time from her classes. Now at the circus, Celia's book collection has become large enough that most of the furniture within her rooms has been replaced with books. Celia is also quite withdrawn, preferring to read backstage at the circus over going out with others when the circus is closed.
Celia's arrival is what starts the Challenge within the novel, and she is chosen as Hector's student and Marco's opponent.
Between the two opponents, Celia has a natural advantage over Marco as she was born with her magical abilities, whereas Marco had to learn from scratch. Hector's teaching takes advantage of her magic, as Celia's classes are much more practical than Marco's. Hector's teaching methods at first involve forcing Celia to use her magic correctly - he kills a bird when Celia is unable to fix its wing, and he slices open her fingertips so that she is forced to heal them. In addition, he impairs her wrists and breaks it with a paperweight when she is a teenager, in which she spent "the better of an hour to set and heal the shards of bones." Hector also disguises Celia as a spiritual medium when she is sixteen, so that she becomes used to performing with an audience. It is also a way to acquire money, as the her father is now in retirement from his magician profession.
For the duration of the Challenge, Celia's position is within the Circus itself, as she becomes "The Illusionist". In this position, she can follow the Circus, and she is able to see any changes to the Circus that Marco makes. Celia is also able to take control over where the Circus goes, as she controls the train that transports the Circus and the acts. Both Celia and Marco add tents to the circus as a way of competing in attempts to out-perform the other person. The attractions that are known to be created by Celia are the Carousel, the Wishing Tree, and Widget's tent of jars that contain his stories. Celia also collaborates with Marco on the labyrinth, and she helps to maintain the running of the Stargazer which was made by Ethan Barris.
Tsukiko remarks that whilst both Celia and Marco support the Circus and are keeping it running, Celia holds more responsibility as she is using her own energy to support the Circus rather than using an alternate power source (unlike Marco who uses the courtyard cauldron to enchant the Circus). This is something that weighs heavily on Celia as the years pass, and when the cauldron goes out during the novel's climax, Celia almost collapses from the force of keeping the Circus together.