Having not read many circus novels, By a Charm and a Curse has convinced me that I need to read way more. This was dark, lovely, and emotional.
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.
This reminded me so much of The Weight of Feathers (mostly because it’s the only other ‘circus’ type of book I really enjoyed). At the same time there was a darker element to it that I really enjoyed.
By a Charm and a Curse is as colorful as you would expect a circus to be. It shines brightly and is a magical wonder. But what steals the show is the cast of characters. They are endearing and compassionate and while we don’t spend too much time with many of them, they leave a little mark on your heart. I especially enjoyed Emmaline’s dynamic.
For Emmaline it’s a difficult dilemma. Not only must she be forced to travel with the Carnival, but she also finds herself trying (or not) to be friends with them. She has to realize that sometimes good people do bad things to survive. Even more so, she has to decide is she is one of those people. This ethical dilemma was fascinating to see unfold.
By the end of this book, you’ll be staying up late and flipping pages like I was, because it all sort of builds into this speeding train you can’t look away from. There is something that is happened, pulling their worlds apart at the seams, and you have to keep your eyes glued to the page.
What were your inspirations when writing this book
Music sparked this story into life. I’d been listening to the Dresden Doll’s Coin-Operated Boy, and had an image of a girl falling from a great height. That turned into a short story, and at my critique partner’s urging, a novel. And then I made a playlist largely comprised of music that was in that same tone, kind of dark but pretty but haunting.
Did you have to do any research for this novel and if so, what was the most interesting thing that didn’t make it into the book
I think the most interesting things I found that didn’t make it into the book were these images of abandoned carnival rides. They were so dilapidated but so haunting, and if I could have found a way to include them, I would have.
If you were in a circus, what would your talent be
What advice would you give to writers just beginning
I’d say toughen up your skin. Learn to separate your writing from yourself, because for your writing to get better, you need to hear the truth from people who want to see your work get better. And that’s hard! It was incredibly difficult to get critical feedback on a novel that I had worked so hard on. But your crit partners (and eventually your agent and your editor) only want to make your work shine.