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By a Charm and a Curse

Review

By a Charm and a Curse

Welcome to Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, where the unimaginable comes true: dogs jump through flaming hoops, girls ride on saddleless horses while doing handstands and hauntingly accurate futures are foretold. For Emma, who feels abandoned since her mother left for a research trip in Guatemala, this is the perfect opportunity to escape for just a moment. As she enters this fascinating carnival, she is approached by a strange figure and she cannot help but become enthralled by him. Before she can stop herself, Emma finds herself drunk and alone with this mysterious boy on the top of the Ferris wheel, his lips on hers. But something is off. He feels hard as stone and cold as ice. Before she knows it, she is falling off the side of the Ferris wheel, forever bound to this enchanted carnival by a curse which keeps the show running without accidents or injuries.

"From the title and cover, I too immediately fell under the charms of the carnival....Everything was so precise down to the smell of the fried food and the vibrant colors of the booths and entertainers."

From the title and cover, I too immediately fell under the charms of the carnival. I am generally not the biggest fan of books with a whole lot of description, but Questell somehow kept me hooked from beginning to end. I felt as though I was at the carnival watching performers make impossible human pyramids or knife throwers just barely hit their mark. Everything was so precise down to the smell of the fried food and the vibrant colors of the booths and entertainers. I was captivated by these details. Like the other spectators, I couldn't get enough and was unable to put the book down.

I also fell in love with almost every character. Emma was especially well developed and complex. In order to rid herself of the curse, Emma must woo a spectator and kiss them, but she never actually goes through with it because she pities her victims and doesn’t want them to endure what she had to. This gave her a sympathetic human side which I found appealing. Some of the side characters were also memorable. Duncan, one of the fortunetellers, lightened the mood with his flamboyance and humor, and Whiskey, one of the horseback riders, made me laugh with her wild spirit and endearing insults to other characters.

I wish there had been a stronger antagonist and more tension. I was still drawn in thanks to the many plot twists, but the lack of major conflict between characters felt unrealistic even in such an extraordinary environment.

I strongly recommend BY A CHARM AND A KISS to all lovers of CARAVAL and anyone who wants to make a quick escape to a mystical world of magic and fun. 

Reviewed by Alice D., Teen Board Member on February 27, 2018

By a Charm and a Curse
by Jaime Questell