Author: Jaime Questell
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
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.
Leslie smiles at the girl with a mixture of pride and tentative hope. “It took us a few days to get Sidney set up somewhere else, and I’m sorry about that. But this wagon belongs to the occupant of the box.” Leslie strokes the side of the ladder that leads to the door. “What you’re going through is terrible, we know it is, though we can never truly understand. It’s a small comfort, but we want you to have a place that’s just your own, a place that you can use to escape.”
A weak, wobbly smile lifts the corners of the girl’s mouth as her gaze roves over the outside of the wagon, a shadow of the smile I saw the other night, when she was with her friend. I wonder what it would take to get her to smile for real.
“What about Sidney?”
“Sidney can make do.” Leslie’s smile broadens into a grin. “Have you seen the way he’s been eating? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him waddle out of the cook shack one of these mornings like Templeton the Rat.” She dangles a small copper key from the end of a length of faded red ribbon. “It’s like I said—the carnival owes the person in the box. This is the least we can do for you in return.”
The girl’s hand shakes as she reaches for the key, and she wraps her slender fingers around it tightly, as though she’s afraid of dropping it. I lose sight of her as she steps inside, and all I can do now is hope she likes the wagon.
I turn to head home and feel the sickening lurch as my foot lands in a slick patch of mud and whips out from beneath me. I throw out my arm. A flash of white-hot pain flares through my hand, but I manage to keep my footing. I step out of the mud that had nearly sent me sprawling on my ass, unsure as to how I even missed it in the first place. Then my hand begins to throb.
A gash runs diagonally across my palm. Blood wells from the wound, filling my cupped hand. The pain sets in, a deep pulsing starting in my palm and radiating up my arm. I glance over at the trailer and see a splash of red smeared along a sharp flap of metal. I must have sliced my hand on that as I tried to grab onto something to keep from slipping.
Falling on carnival grounds doesn’t happen; the charm sees to that. But my bloodied hand begs to differ.
By a Charm and a Curse had me intrigued after reading the description. I have to admit that I immediately thought of The Night Circus. (If you haven't read The Night Circus, I can't recommend it enough. I absolutely loved it and it's one of my all time favorites.) I haven't read many books centered around circuses in general, let alone young adult ones. The premise sounded fascinating and lived up to my hopes. The romance part of it was very prominent because it's the majority of the story, and I have to admit that it was pretty predictable. It was very obvious early on what was going to happen and we just had to watch it unfold. I normally don't care much for romance in my books, but I enjoyed this relationship between Emma and Benjamin - seeing them grow together and fall in love was sweet.
The plot was an interesting concept and I like how there was both a charm and a curse involved - and they were codependent on one another. I really liked learning about each one and seeing how they both worked in the circus. We get to learn the beginning story of them both towards the end of the book and I loved the stories. Emma and Benjamin were good main characters who were realistic and easy to identify with. The other secondary characters were kind of flat because we don't get to know them very well. That was okay with me because the main plot didn't really need them to be complex.
The last thing I want to talk about was the writing style. This is a very important part of a book for me and can definitely make or break it. The author wrote the book in what I think was a perfect fit - from the first person point of view, in alternating narratives from both Emma and Benjamin's perspectives. I loved getting to know each of them on such a personal level. We get to know them deeply - their every thought, hope, fear, dream, and everything in between is open to the reader. I loved that the author chose this as the writing style and it definitely made a positive impact on my reading experience. I definitely recommend this book for fans of The Night Circus, YA, fantasy, magic, and romance.
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 book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers 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.
Author Website: jaimequestell.com
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaimequestell/
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Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15396319.Jaime_Questell