It’s time for dark magical bread and circuses today!
Well, I am eating bread, I don’t know about you. But the circus part is true for all of us because todayyyy I’m featuring By A Charm and A Curse by Jaime Questell and having a Q&A with the author! This book is so good and equal parts whimsical and mysterious with darkness lurking about the edges.
And to top it off, there’s an epic giveaway at the end!
SO ENJOY. BECAUSE I AM.
Thanks to Entangled Teen for organising the opportunity for this fabulous feature!
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.
Jaime Questell is a writer and graphic designer from Houston, Texas. She has also been a bookseller, a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and an administrative assistant. None of these jobs involved wrangling corgis, which is quite sad. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, children, and pets.
@JaimeQuestell I think you kind of hit on it right there in the question. I loved the idea of this bright and shiny surface with a dark core. So I tried to do that both literally, with the lights and the glitter and horrifying accidents, but also metaphorically, with the charm and the curse affecting the way people treat each other. But on a lighter note, I also really enjoyed writing the dogs. I want a posse of dogs following me around like Mrs. Potter.
@JaimeQuestell I am horrible at naming things. (Except my kids. I think I did okay there.) But the title is paraphrased from some dialogue of Ben’s, and it felt so right when I decided on it. It’s said over and over that an author should know that their title can change both when their agent sends it out on submission, or after an editor acquires the project, but I was incredibly lucky that both my agent and everyone at the publisher liked it!
@JaimeQuestell Charm started life as a short story. I turned it in to my writing group the last weekend of October 2012, and was promptly told that had to turn this into a novel. So, I used that short story as a catalyst for my NaNoWriMo project that year. I put it away to simmer for a while, then polished it up in 2014. I signed with my fabulous agent, Patricia Nelson of MLLA, in November. We sold the manuscript to Entangled in 2016, and here we are! I like to joke now that even numbered years are my lucky years.
@JaimeQuestell I really want to say that I could be elegant and graceful and wear a sequined costume, but I am SO not coordinated. I’m probably one of the ladies deep frying your candy bar. Oh! Wait. I’ve got it. If I could do anything, I’d have an act like Mrs. Potter, but with ferrets. I had some as pets when I was younger and they’re so smart and so cute! That’s what I’d do.
@JaimeQuestell Toughest part is that stage of revision between big picture and line edits. Where it’s not a huge fix in one area, but the required changes can ripple out and mean there are other things to edit and that drives me up the wall. But the fun part is the drafting, where everything is new and shiny. Where you can come up with your characters’ names and likes and create friendships. That’s the best part.
(I only read the eBook so full disclosure all the photos are photoshopped ah hahah. I’m clever.)
By A Charm And A Curse totally scored all the points with me for the magical circus setting. Plus it had a darker undertone (yes) and a sinister curse (yessss) and deep dark magical secrets (YESSSSSS). I’m actually not sure why I’m so fascinated by circuses considering I’ve never been to one, but they just seem so magical?!? And in books there’s so much room for trickery. So I’ll just wear a festively fabulous hat and a pocket watch and show up for all the magical circus books. Do not stop me.
So the setting was definitely the highlight for me! I love how we really got to SEE the circus acts happening too (plus there was a variety of events to marvel at). It’s set in a modern world, so to visitors it’s just a death-defying circus with lots of glamour and fantastically impossible acts. But thennnnn…behind the scenes? We know the curse is protecting the actors from failure — at a devastating price. One person suffers terribly for it. I just loved the lights and popcorn and sneaking out to look at the stars and epic flips and ferris wheels. So beauty. Much aesthetic.
It’s dual narrated by Benjamin and Emma. Ben gives us an “insider view” while Emma is the “newbie trapped in this whirlwind of magic and curses”. Also Ben is a total Hufflepuff, with his building and painting and feeling all the things. Emma was a tiny bit bland, in my opinion, especially since her life is destroyed when she’s “snatched” by the circus. But also the curse was maybe numbing her?! So that would make sense.
Also so. much. love. to the secondary characters! They all exploded off the page. Sidney was somehow awful and endearing all at once (aajfdksld Sidney) and Pia and Duncan, the hilariously wonderful psychic siblings, were amazing! Duncan was basically a lightbulb and a gif to this world. Whisky and Gin were totally relatable sisters — they’ll fight and possibly nearly kill each other, buuut they also love each other to death. #RELATABLE #CONTENT. I also loved the moral dilemma of how NICE everyone was, but the darkness of how they had to kidnap someone to keep the curse alive.
- so many feels
- like i did not expect to have my feels stabbed like this
- dark backstories and intoxicating secrets
- stakes that are super high and consequences that are terrifying
- human puppets
- dangerous accidents
- deep sadness
- broken cars
- the writing is detailed and delicious
- I think the moral of the story is don’t trust anyone and don’t kiss anyone?!? And these make so much sense.
- also 10/10 to the fact that once you escape a curse, all you want to do is eat snacks
- HOW IS THIS BOOK SO PERFECT