Book Title: By A Charm And A Curse
Author: Jaime Questell
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: YA, Fantasy Fiction
Pub Date: 02/06/18
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.
Sorry, but if you don’t like stories about carnivals or the traveling circus, we can’t be friends. Just kidding, but I do have an affinity for all things weird, strange, and entertaining. In 2016/2017 I highly enjoyed both Caraval and Daughter Of The Burning City, and this book felt like a nice blend of the two while doing it’s own thing. I can dig that. I enjoyed this one so much that I finished it in a span of 36 hours; it was that type of compulsive read that begins as a slow burn (as most fantasy novels do), but then ramps up the pacing after the initial “world building” is set. By world building, I’m really referring to the carnival, as By A Charm And A Curse takes place in a contemporary setting, but the carnival contains a world of it’s own. Once we see how everything works and what the rules are, it’s game on.
“Jules, I can say with some certainty that never have I ever experienced a candy-induced joygasm.”
“Then I can say with some certainty that you aren’t living your best life.”
Ah, yes. I know the writing won’t be for everyone, but this book gets me. As I flipped along I felt a growing, kindred spirit in Questell; we have a similar sense of humor and I like that she didn’t depend on a bunch of cheap sex scenes to sell this book. It’s very much upper YA level in my opinion, as there’s language and thematic elements that may be disturbing for younger readers, but she kept the romance very tender and soft. There was more of a focus on the longevity of what love expects of us rather than the physical, “busty and lusty” stage of a young crush. That’s not to say I’m hating on the hot and steamies, simply that for THIS book and the flow of THIS story, I think the author made the right choice in how to portray that portion of the plot.
“The carnival is all I’ve ever known. I’d do anything to keep it alive. But everything ends, Emma.” She turns her bright-blue eyes to me, and tears sparkle at the edges. “Everything.”
I don’t want to say much more, because obviously I want you to pick up the book instead of just reading all about it in my review, but I’d like to include that this novel is just as lyrical and dramatic on the inside as it is on that beautiful cover. Even though it was only around 300 pages long, By A Charm And A Curse gave the feel of a sweeping drama that took place over multiple decades. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the atmosphere and love that the author blended a feel of historical and contemporary, or as I like to call it “histemporary”. If you enjoy this feel of a novel in a young adult setting, please consider giving By A Charm And A Curse a try. I can’t wait to hear if anyone else was holding their breath on the edge of their seat in the final chapters as I was.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.