“Enchantée” by Gita Trelease
Source: ARC in exchange for an honest review
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.
But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…
Trelease’s debut is an enchanting adventure in an alternate Paris on the cusp of the French Revolution. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Trelease blends the workings of la magie/magicians into very real Revolution. She dribbles bits of information about la magie throughout the story as well as the different types of la magie. I’m a sucker for having lots of knowledge about fictional magic systems so I felt the information to be lacking. It was there and there’s enough to make your way through the book. I just wish there was more.
The aristocratic world at Versailles was brought to life beautifully. Everything sounds magnificent. Trelease did a lovely job of endearing us to Camille’s friends at the Palace while still making me (us?) annoyed with their aristocratic bubble. It was really interesting to see the sprinkles of the French Revolution mixed into the story so subtlety that you might miss it. It probably my very lacking knowledge of French history but I truly was missing the hints right up until the storming of the Bastille.
Trelease does create a wonderfully rich world. Unfortunately, it became too rich for my taste. The story at times drug on for me and I felt the story could have been shave down 50-100 pages to make things move faster. She also does this really interesting thing where she sprinkles French words/phrases into the story. It absolutely adds to the richness of the story. I don’t know any French beyond Allons-y (Thanks Doctor Who!) so a lot of the language was lost on me.
Overall, Enchantée is an enjoyable historical fantasy with a lovely dose of Revolution.