by Jaime Questell
Published on February 6, 2018 by Entangled Teen
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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The unfortunate truth is that The Night Circus has basically ruined me for all other circus books and By a Charm and a Curse fell on the disappointing side of things. Though it’s been compared to TNC and Caraval, I didn’t see much of a resemblance beyond the setting (in a way, but still not a great comparison).
I should have DNFed it. I did, temporarily, several times between the 0% and 30% mark. The characters didn’t hook me. In fact, I just flat-out didn’t like Emmaline. She immediately struck me as falling into the “not like other girls” trap and I wasn’t here for it. As soon as a new boy was introduced in the story, she’s all over him and suddenly we have an insta-love cringe-fest.
By a quarter of the way through, I lost all hope of liking this book. The story came together too easily, and I never worried about the characters. In part because I just didn’t care about them but also I didn’t feel like anything bad would really happen (or if it did, it wouldn’t last).
But I will say that Questell has a decent writing style. While the execution of the story wasn’t working for me, the writing is clean and easy to read. Plus, the whole carnival setting is my jam and I loved the way the author set up the world.
By a Charm and a Curse isn’t truly a terrible book. For me, it had one too many elements that bored me so I struggled to get through it, but thankfully it’s a standalone so you aren’t committing yourself to a long book. I can’t say I personally recommend it but if it sounds like your kind of book from the synopsis, give it a go!