Happy Wednesday y’all! Today I’m so excited to be participating in the release week tour for Jaime Questell‘s By a Charm & a Curse. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys urban fantasy, curses and carnivals, and a little romance. While this is billed for YA, I think I should note that it does contain strong language and I would recommend this for 16+. Keep reading for my review of the book, an excerpt, and a chance to win a swag pack.
I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.By a Charm & a Curse by Jaime Questell
Published by Entangled: Teen on 2018-02-06
Length: 300 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: 2018 New Release Challenge
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 COULD NOT sit By a Charm & a Curse by Jaime Questell down! I loved the setting and the mystery surround the curse. I ached for Emma and fell in love with Ben. If you enjoy YA urban fantasy, carnivals, and curses, I highly recommend it!
When the book opens, Emma is struggling. She’s been sent away by her mother to live with her father and brothers in rural Oklahoma. That in itself isn’t so bad. It’s the being away from her mother for over a year that Emma struggles with. Emma comes full circle in this book, seeing the error in her thinking almost immediately. She misses her family, and yet she’s can’t return. It’s heartbreaking!
Ben is ready to run at the open. He’s spent most of his life with the carnival, and he’s ready to leave and find a place to call home. He’s tired of the traveling, nomadic life. BUT his mom is there, and they are there because she wants to keep him safe. The charm tied to the carnival protects them from accidents, makes their shows magical, and even stops their aging. Despite all of this, Ben wants a normal life until the new Girl in the Box arrives.
So the premise of the book is in the title. There is a curse on the person in the box and that curse is directly related to the charm protecting everyone in the carnival. The story opens with Sidney, the Boy in the Box. I picture something like those old fortune teller boxes that you drop a coin in and the mannequin gives them a card of their future. This is exactly what it is except Sidney is alive. Then he tricks Emma into the Box and she takes his place, forced to travel with the carnival, unable to go home and unable to apologize to the family she is leaving behind.
I think this is where the book lost me a bit. I loved Emma and Ben. I even liked their budding relationship. But the curse and charm, those confused me, which is why the book gets four instead of five stars. It’s well thought-out and is explained some, but I still had a hard time understanding how the curse is passed on and why no one has thought to break it before now. Granted that is also explained.
Overall I really enjoyed the book, even if it some of it was predictable. I found myself engrossed in Emma and Ben’s story, their relationship and how they overcome the odds. I loved Duncan and Whiskey and the other side characters, and I hurt for Sidney and Audrey. I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys the whimsy of carnival life, the charms of first love, and a seemingly unbreakable curse.
Note: This book contains strong language, underage drinking, and some violence. While it is written for YA, I would recommend it for 16+ or the mature teen.
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.