By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.
Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.
Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.
**Thanks so much to Entangled Teen for sending me over a copy of this!! You’re the best, and it didn’t affect my review in any way!**
Well, that was intriguing. It’s definitely going to be one of the most interesting books that I read all year, and it so going to be up there for most fascinating premises in 2018. This book was an interesting ride, and I think the only issue it had is it didn’t fully live up to its potential…although it definitely sparkled in a lot of ways.
This book is easily going to have comparisons to Caraval and The Night Circus. Basically, if you mention carnival in YA, you’re going to get those two books shoved at your face right away. However, brush off your thoughts of these two books, because the only thing they share is a carnival setting. This book is far different than either of them, and oddly enough, quite a bit more intriguing? If I did have to compare the two to this book, I would say this book had a lot more originality and eccentricities to it that I really enjoyed.
The premise was the star in this circus book, and I was in love with it. It was just so odd and cool and a little bit of Pinocchio meets Dumbo meets something sinister? I’m not even sure, but I loved every second of it. The first few chapters drew me in, and I was entranced. I literally had no clue what would happen next, and each bit that was brought up about the charms and the curse was so interesting. I have to give the author so much kudos for that.
The writing was quite nice as well. The book had some beautiful lines, but really, Questell let the story do the talking. Her writing was such a breeze to read and I honestly devoured this book in two sittings because she made it so easy to read. I’ll definitely be looking out for her books in the future.
One of the issues that I had was with the characters. I did like our main characters well enough, but I didn’t really love them. I thought Emma was quite an interesting character, but I was a bit confused by her sometimes. She became the Girl in the Box, but she didn’t really ask some of the super important questions. There was one question I had the entire time, but she didn’t ask it until like 70% into the story when the plot decided to go that way. It was a very easy question I felt she should have been asking. I also wanted a bit more depth into her struggle and her mind since she was going through such a traumatic experience. I felt a lot of time her character just seemed to be going through the motions or what people told her, and I expected a lot more questioning.
Benjamin was an okay character. I never got much from him. He was kind of just there. I understood a lot of his desires for something more, but that was about it? I felt like that a lot about the rest of the cast of the characters as well. They were kind of all there, even if I did like some of them – I never felt much.
My other big issue with the story was I felt that it got pulled down by plot lines that weren’t quite necessary. I was so enraptured with the first part of the story and I couldn’t stop reading it. I had to know what was going on with the carnival and the curse and more and then…it kind of fizzled. For the second half of the story, I felt we focused a lot on whether or not Benjamin’s mom was going to be mad? I wasn’t completely sold on the romance either – because while I liked them, I didn’t see the depth or lead up to their relationship. The ending seemed a bit rushed, too. I was kind of hoping for a second half that was different.
Overall, though, this story was so interesting and such a delightful, short read. I was entranced in the world that Questell created. She did such a marvelous job with the setting and it really spoke to me. Out of all the carnival books that have come out these past few years, this is the one I think I’m going to remember the most. It had such a wonderfully intriguing premise, easy writing, and likeable enough characters. I did have a few problems with it, but they aren’t enough to skip it. I still do recommend everyone giving it a try if they’re looking for an interesting book to start off 2018. 3 crowns and a Belle rating!
What do you think? Do you enjoy carnival novels? Does a premise make a book? Let’s discuss in the comments below! ~ Mandy