Sunday, 11 March 2018

Review: By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime QuestellNetGalleyBy a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell (eProof) - 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.
From Goodreads.

Trigger Warning: This book features accidental death, animal death and violence.

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell sounded like such an incredible read, but, while I was captivated and intrigued from the offset, I ended up pretty disappointed.

The story is dual narrated by Emmaline and Benjamin, a carpenter working on the carnival, and the love interest. For the most part, they take turns narrating the story in alternate chapters, but depending on what's happening in the story, sometimes they'll have a few on the trot. While I liked both Emma and Ben, I didn't feel I got to know very much about them.

Emma and her siblings are living with her dad, as her mum is off on a work research trip that will take several months, and she hates it. Ben doesn't like that his mum is his boss at the carnival, doesn't like working at the carnival itself, and wants to get away. When Emma ends up kissing Sydney, and the curse is transferred from him to her, turning her into a barely alive porcelain doll, Emma can't leave; after she's gone a certain distance away from the carnival, she becomes paralysed, and without her, the carnival won't work how it's supposed to. Other than what I've said here, we learn very little about them. And so it's also difficult to see how they end up falling for each other so quickly; it's not instalove exactly, but it does happen super quickly, based on I don't know what. It doesn't help that between two chapters, Emma has been at the carnival for a few days, and then a month goes by. The two must have got to know each other during that month, but we don't see it.

And this is my problem with most of the book; there's so much that could have been further developed. It's a standalone novel, when I think it should have been developed more and been at least a duology. It's a fairy quick read, but it wasn't until just before 50% that thinking about breaking the curse is even considered, and then it's such an easy decision. The description mentions how breaking the curse will end the charm, and that will cause issues for everyone, because it's extended their life and stopped illnesses and such, but it's only given a little thought, and then the focus is on how to break the curse. Which means finding out how it all started. It was really interesting finding out how the carnival originally fell under a charm and a curse, but working out how to break the curse, and how it's actually done? So very easy. I mean, it's difficult in that there's a risk, but it's not some big convoluted thing. I just felt disappointed again and again. I really expected this to be the first book in the series, and when it became clear that everything was going to be wrapped up very easily in this book, it just fell apart for me. The not getting to know Emma and Ben well, both of them falling in love with each other very quickly based on nothing we get to see, and then find out how to break the curse very easily, and the actual act of breaking the curse being simple, it was just quite a let down.

There are some good parts about the book. There's quite a large cast of characters, the other people who work at the carnival, as performers and not, and they were awesome. I loved Gin and Whiskey, the equestrian vaulting act, Duncan and Pia, the fortune tellers who actually have the gift, and I even quite liked Sydney, the Boy in the Box before Emma. I would love to have read about Sydney's back story, or a spin off with Gin and Whiskey, or even Duncan and Pia, as they were awesome! It also has it's dark elements. There are quite violent moments, sinister moments, and the curse itself, how it affects Emma, is really quite clever but also pretty uncomfortable reading. And when the charm itself seems to start failing for no reason, there are a number of accidents that are really quite shocking.

So there were great things there, and I really feel if the book had been developed further, if it was made into a duology or maybe even a trilogy, it would have been better. I mean, the way the curse works is really clever and imaginative, so it's not like Questell can't do it. But it would have been better, I think, if she applied the same thing to trying to figure out other ways of getting out of the situation Emma's in before realising the curse had to be broken, then made it difficult to work out how to do that, and then made the breaking of the curse itself difficult. It just felt a little too easy to me, with a romance I didn't believe in. But other people have really enjoyed By a Charm and a Curse, so do read some other reviews before you decide whether or not to read the book yourself.

Thank you to Entangled: Teen via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 6th February 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Jaime Questell's Website

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