By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Emma finds herself at Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic and embroiled in much more than she could have ever imagined. The Carnival is both charmed and cursed. A fated soul is forced to bear the curse so that the Carnival and its performers may be charmed, never to fall to harm or disaster so long as the curse holds. This book is entirely different from the Night Circus or Caraval, which it will likely be compared to due to its setting. The feel and plot of the book is completely unlike the two mentioned.
I found the Carnival to be vibrantly brought to life in my mind, although it was much more bloody and violent than I expected it to be. The number of gruesome deaths and injuries that occurred during this book were incredibly surprising. I expected this to be a more light-hearted fluffy, romantic fantasy set at the Carnival from the first few pages and that is not what it ended up being at all. Despite that, I still really enjoyed the premise and the mystery surrounding the curse.
I didn’t strongly connect with any of the main characters, although I found them interesting enough. They didn’t feel as developed as they should have been and I never felt that they were growing. My biggest issue was the predictability of the trope in the story. It took the fun out of the discovery and made the plot feel a little underwhelming. The romance felt like insta-love to me and that’s one of the most frustrating tropes, as I enjoy character development more than anything.
Overall, I really enjoyed the premise even if the characters weren’t particularly engaging for me. This was a short, easy (although deadly) fantasy read.
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