Review Wednesday: By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

Standalone to date
Released: February 6th, 2018
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.”

I received a copy of this book from Entangled Teen.  All opinions expressed are my own.

For the most part, everything just felt very goodish in this book.  I liked the characters but they weren’t great.  I liked the plot but it wasn’t the best ever.  That kind of thing.  However, I still read it in one sitting which definitely tells you something is interesting!

1.  The characters.  I did like most of the characters.  They all were very unique although some of them blended together for me.  I felt like their presence could have been a little stronger and a little more potent.  However, I do have favorites!  Sidney, Gin, Marcel, and Benjamin were all such gems and they’re definitely the characters I’ll be remembering.  Especially Sidney.  He is the Boy in the Box that lures Emma and I found his mind so fascinating!  We learn a lot about him after the 3/4 mark and it blew me away.  Still, when I think about the characters as a whole, everybody just felt a bit blurry and a little vague.  Particularly with the antagonists who weren’t really given too much motive besides they just liked being evil (and, being a Slytherin that irked me a bit).

“The smile I’d seen a glimpse of earlier grows, no longer a shooting star but now dawn creeping over the edge of the horizon.”

2.  The plot.  As I said in the intro, I read this all in one sitting and the plot really did move along.  I found the overall plot to be your average, run of the mill plot without too many twists but that didn’t keep me from enjoying it (honestly, The Hero’s Journey pops up everywhere but why fix it if it ain’t broke?).  The charm and the curse linkage was really interesting and tied up beautifully and it was my favorite part of the plot.  Again, though, it felt slightly vague and there are several areas (the ending, the beginning of Emma’s journey, etc) where there needed more fleshing out.  However, I will say that overall, it’s very interesting with a strong sense of place and is the shining star of this book.

“‘When you’re never in the same place for more than a week, you need a constant. Something that doesn’t change, ever.'”

3.  The idea.  This was really cool, actually.  I haven’t read that many books about circuses and I really liked the idea; like a mix between a circus and a sleeping beauty retelling.  If you’ve been around my blog before, you’ll know I’m a retelling fanatic, even if I don’t get to read them all the time.  Anything that is even remotely related to a retelling, I’m in!

“The golden bulbs give off a soft heat, as does Duncan’s nearby body. I want to lean into both but manage to restrain myself when I realize how much of a creeper that would make me”

4.  The romance.  Surprisingly, I actually loved the romance.  It’s a really nice slow-burn romance with very real emotions (although ‘love’ came a little soon).  It takes basically the entire book to develop and as you may ascertain, it plays a key part in the whole ‘curse’ thing and the plot as a whole so at the end, it was really interesting to go back and see where all the clues were dropped.

 Final Verdict:
Beautifully thought out general idea and slow-burn romance with a slight vagueness around some of the characters and a few plot gaps I wish were filled.
4 stars

Meet the Author:
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. Currently, she lives in the suburbs with her family, one derpy dog, and one imperious cat. If she had her way, she’d have an army of corgis, like the Queen of England.


0 thoughts on “Review Wednesday: By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell”

  1. Indeed! (although I'm also the person who never DNF's anything so there's that) But yes, the atmosphere and the plot were a bit better than the characters. I'm hoping that subsequent books will remedy that. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny!


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