By a Charm and a Curse by Jamie Questell

“The carnival is a sad and desolate place on a weekday morning. No matter how brightly painted the stalls and booths are, no matter how loud the music…it’s still an empty carnival. It’s veins without blood. It’s lungs with no air.”

34921588.jpgEver since I finished The Night Circus a few years ago I have been hunting for more books with that same magical carnival atmosphere. I’ll admit that it’s been mostly duds with a few good ones here and there. So when I picked up By a Charm and a Curse I kept my expecations pretty low.

If you want something that’s bursting with magic, this might not be the book for you. But if you want something with an intriguing storyline and just a *hint* of magical woven throughout, I think you’ll find that this is a real winner. Depite being set in an enchated carnival, so to speak, there isn’t much description of the actual magic happening within the carnival. We get glimpses of the amazing feats the performers are able to do, but they’re more of a sideshow than the main event. Instead, the story focuses on Emmaline King, a girl tricked into bearing the burden of the carnival’s “curse” – an ancient spell that basically holds one person in perpetual stasis so that the other members of the carnival can take risks without ever being harmed. It’s a sweet deal for everyone except the person whose life is ground to a halt under the weight of the curse. But obviously no one really cares about that person’s sacrifice. It’s just the way things are. That is, until Sidney, the boy who previously held the curse for a whopping 50 years, finally decides to transfer it onto the first gullible tourist he meets – Emmalilne. That’s when things start to get interesting.

I really liked learning about the history of the curse, and I think the whole cast of characters in the carnival were charming. I would have liked more of the whole supporting cast, really. And while I would also have loved more feats of magic to feed my magical-carnival-cravings, I think the way Questell sets the story up works for this particular book. The carnival is a fun and slightly msytic backdrop for the romance blossoming between Emma and Ben.

Was there some insta-love? Sure. Would I have liked a slower build-up to Ben and Emma’s relationship? Yes. Did I still enjoy watching their story unfold? Definitely.

I saw pretty much all of the major twists coming, but that didn’t stop me from immensely enjoying the ride. There’s a lot of fun adventure woven into this one and just enough magic to tie everything together!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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