Marco Alisdair (born 1866) was orphaned at a young age, and sent to live in an orphanage in London. In 1874, a man named Alexander arrives at the orphanage, looking for a suitable student. The headmistress brings him three children who fit the criteria - one of whom is Marco - and Alexander questions them all in private. Marco is the last to speak with Alexander, and after a short period of time he is chosen to be Alexander's student who will be trained to compete against an unknown opponent in a mysterious contest. Alexander does not give him a name and he instead chooses one for himself.
When Marco is first introduced, he is described as having badly cut dark hair and grey-green eyes. Due to his life in a orphanage, he is also introduced in extremely ragged clothes. However, after Alexander "adopts" him as his student, Marco's appearance improves; he is treated to private hairdressers and tailors, and his wardrobe consists of expensive, fashionable suits.
However, one of Marco's specialties is the ability to manipulate his appearance, and he uses this skill throughout much of his adult life. Even though the changes are subtle, they are noticeable to Celia Bowen, and are enough to attract the attentions of Isobel and the Burgess sisters upon sight; when using the enchantment, his features become sharper, a goatee appears and his eyes turn to a bright green - the general effect makes Marco appear older than he really is. When Marco and Celia are alone for the first time, she mentions that his "mask" is handsome, but consciously so, and for her the sentiment is off-putting. Marco proceeds to drop his guard afterwards, and Celia notes that he is still handsome - from this point onwards, it is suggested that he only reverts to his normal face when he is in the company of Celia; however, the manipulated face is still visible to everybody else.
Because of Marco's studies and his habit of keeping notebooks, he fingers are constantly stained with ink (Tsukiko also studied with Alexander, but she avoids this through her tattoos).
One trait that Marco shares with Celia is a permanent scar on his ring finger, which binds him to the Challenge. The only difference is that the ring used on Marco was gold and on his palm, whilst Celia's was silver.
As the people involved with the circus are aging extremely slowly due to the various enchantments, it is suggested that Marco constantly resembles how he was when the circus opened, although by the end of the novel, it is noted that the various characters appear much older on closer inspection (as the climax of the novel happens in 1902, without the enchantments Marco would naturally appear to be 37 years old).
Following the dates from the novel, Marco is three years older than Celia, and the circus opens when he is 21 years old.
Personality and Traits
One of Marco's key personality traits is his charm: whether he has a natural charm or whether he was taught to be charming, Marco is shown to win over many of the people that he meets. He notes that it's what helped him to become Chandresh's assistant, and Celia notices the way that Isobel is attracted to him.