Tuesday, January 23, 2018

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

Title: By a Charm and a Curse
Author: Jaime Questell
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 6, 2018
Pages: 300
Source/format: Publisher//e-ARC

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

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.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Emmaline King calls Claremore, Oklahoma a circle of hell but for reasons most people don't know about. Her mother abandoned her and her brothers for a year with her father in order to pursue an investigation in Guatemala. Le Grand's Carnival Fantastic visits the outskirts of Claremore and Emma is thrilled to explore the carnival.

Before Emma gets to know Benjamin Singer, she is tricked and is cursed at the carnival. In order for the carnival performers to be charmed with their unnaturally lucky existence, one person is the center of the charm and is ultimately the curse that holds everyone together. The curse lives in the person and that person becomes the Boy in the Box or the Girl in the Box. The charm protects the carnival until recently. Something has changed and the charm is wearing off. People are falling and accidents are occurring. But why?

Jaime Questell writes characters that are vibrant and full of life. Each are unique in their special way.  Although many are sad about Emma's circumstances, the carnival performers and employees do whatever it takes to make Emma feel at home. I love reading about the traveling carnival. Readers don't just experience the magic of the acts but they also experience the grittiness of the lives of the carnival employees.

The novel alternates chapters in the POVs of Emma and Ben. Due to the length of the book, I feel like the character development wasn't fully fleshed out. I have to say that I enjoyed reading about Sidney. Readers get to know more about Sidney's history and his life in a small period of time compared to Emma and some of the other characters. I found it fascinating to learn more about the origins of the the charm and curse. However, I found the ending to be fairly rushed. It was predictable and I wanted read more about everyone's outcomes.

Readers who want to be entranced by the magic of a carnival will enjoy reading By a Charm and a Curse. A bit of romance and bit of intrigue will make this novel a quick, pleasant read.


  1. I'm curious about this one. I saw a marketing pitch compare it to The Weight of Feathers which feels wrong to me (it sounds more like Caraval if anything). I have to admit I have a pet peeve with characters not named Emma calling themselves Emma but I will push through and give it a shot.

    1. I totally agree that the novel has more of a Caraval vibe to it.