Enchantée by Gita Trelease – REVIEW
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…
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Macmillan.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“Like her ancestors before her, she would use this dark and creeping magic to go to court, to glitter, to win.”
I love stories set in France so was eager to read Enchantée, a historical fantasy debut set in an eighteenth-century Paris on the brink of revolution. Making it even more appealing, a rare few people (magicians) are able to access magic although at a steep cost. I thought the magic system worked really well as there were clear limits to its capabilities and the price of using it was dangerous both emotionally and physically. Camille Durbonne is a seventeen-year-old magician who lives in abject poverty with her older brother, Alain, and younger sister, Sophie. I was frustrated by both of her siblings as they were incredibly selfish at times and simply expected Camille to provide for them. Sophie at least matured over the book and I found their sisterly bond to be authentic and relatable.
“Remember – magic is a cheater’s game, and everyone who sees it wants to play.”
The relationship between Camille and hot-air-balloonist Lazare was beautifully portrayed, although secrets threaten to jeopardise their growing attachment. As Camille infiltrates the court of Marie Antoinette to provide for her family by disguising herself as the Baroness de la Fontaine, she slowly begins to lose herself in the magic, gambling, and decadence. Not only does Camille have to keep her magic hidden but there’s a greater threat promised by a power-hungry dark magician. I found the build-up of this plotline to be well-paced but I did feel the resolution was a little rushed.
“She was rising, and it was glorious to rise.”
The main triumph of this book is the atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the poverty of Paris and the wide divide between rich and poor. The author authentically portrays the cramped and desperate conditions of the maze of streets inhabited by working-class citizens and contrasts it with the excess and waste of Louis XVI’s court, using a writing style evocative enough that the setting seemed almost tangible at times. Overall, I loved this story of magic, mystery and revolution and would highly recommend it. It’s a slow tale but thoroughly rewarding.