Title: By A Charm and A Curse
Author: Jaime Questell
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Circus/Carnival Book
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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.
In 2017, we definitely saw a lot of authors take us readers to many fantastical worlds. One fantastical world we visited several times this last year was the circus. Between Caraval, Daughter of the Burning City, and (at least for me) the Night Circus, there were several trips to fantastical circuses and carnivals that we wished we could take a trip to. For those who still want to go to one more show, By A Curse and A Charm is a fun take on the circus story with a different spin.
I love how this one followed the other acts in the circus, but had an interesting way to bring our main character into the story. If you’re like me, you hear a couple of things to sell you on a book and stop reading the synopsis so you can go in kind of blind and not form any opinions. What I missed was one of the parts I really liked, our main character Emma actually gets tricked into joining by becoming the new “Girl in the Box.” This is like those fortune-teller things you can see at Arcades or circuses or Renaissance Festivals or wherever (reference picture is on the side). At this circus, there is actually a real person trapped in the box and due to a curse and they take on a puppet-like form. This person has smooth skin; doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or even breath; and is responsible for holding the charm over the circus in place and can only be freed if they pass the curse along.
This plot is pretty simple, but it was a lot of fun, so I don’t mind. It’s Emma getting trapped and looking for a way to get free. But this simple plot really worked to the book’s advantage. By keeping everything pretty linear, we got to know more about the circus, the curse, and the characters, without having to take too many reading tangents. This book also added more depth by giving us a second point of view from one of the circus’ carpenter’s Benjamin. I like this dual perspective since Emma and Ben have incredibly different points of view during the story. Having Emma’s confused outsider perspective aside Ben’s insider knowledge was able to strengthen the story.
Praise for this book aside, I did have some issues keeping this story from being a 5 star read. My biggest issue was how predictable the conclusion was. I liked the set up a lot, but there weren’t many possible resolutions. I’m just annoyed that I saw the resolution coming as soon as I did. Despite that being a bit of a letdown, the journey the plot went on was still a lot of fun.
Another complaint I had was that there were times where the charm wasn’t working and I thought it was because Emma was passed the curse correctly. I guess that wasn’t the case, but yeah it was really confusing. I’m happy we did eventually get an explanation and clarification, but for a good chunk of the book, I was pretty confused.
Overall, this book was a lot of fun. It was creative, it had good pacing, and it had such a unique premise. I think that if you’re still on a high from The Greatest Showman (which I hear was really good) or want something to hold you over until Legendary comes out, I think you’ll really enjoy this one!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4/5 Stars
*HUGE THANK YOU TO NETGALLEY, ENTANGLED TEEN AND THE AUTHOR FOR PROVIDING ME A COPY OF THIS BOOK. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN*
Jaime Questell grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a bookseller (fair warning: book lovers who become booksellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.