Énchantée by Gita Trelease
Published by Flatiron Books (coming 02.05.2019)
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
** I received an ARC of Enchantée from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.
If you know me, then you know that I love magic: the wondrous ability to change things with the wave of a hand. So, when I found Enchantée on NetGalley, the mix of fantasy, French history, romance, and revolution thrilled me, and I loved almost all of it.
“Dis-moi Sophie,” she said, admiring the glow of candlelight on silk. “What are a few drops of blood?”
In 18th century Paris, the price for magic is sorrow and blood. Those who have it hide it and those who don’t seek it out, fueled by fear and longing. With the backdrop of the French Revolution, the mixture of magic and the desire for change creates the tense atmosphere for the story of Camille Durbonne and her sister Sophie.
I absolutely loved the tension that Trelease creates between Camille’s revolutionary ideals and her desire for comfort and safety. The more money Camille wins gambling in Versailles with the nobles, the more she wants even though she claims to despise what the wealthy nobles stand for. Eventually, she has to ask herself how much is enough? Is there every really enough? The novel doesn’t ignore how powerful wealth can be, in fact it’s the driving factor behind Camille’s entry into glamoire and Versailles. I love that the desire for money wasn’t made morally black or white and that Camille’s motivations were emotionally realistic.
For all of Camille’s revolutionary ideals though, I felt like her actions fell short. She talked a lot about what the printing press meant to her family and to the revolution, but most of the story is spent longing for one. There’s very little action, realistically speaking, on her part. I felt that this aspect of her character should have been better developed considering how often it was brought up.
Another thing that annoyed me was the trope “protectiveness leading to miscommunication” between the two sisters. For someone as supposedly capable and intelligent as Camille, this just seemed like a cheap trope to insert. It made Sophie a barely 2-dimensional character for most of Enchantée instead of the strong supporting character that she could have been. In fact, I felt like a lot of the important characters were written really from one dimension for 90% of the book. I wanted to know so much more about Alain and Séguin. To be frank, I like my villains far better developed than the two in this novel.
I think a lot of this lack of development came from the author trying to balance way too much in one novel. We have the hot air balloon (which could have been a deeper metaphor), the French Revolution, la magie, a love story, and two antagonists. It just felt so thinly spread out sometimes.
What redeemed the lack of development in Alain and Séguin were the characters of Lazare and Chandon. I loved that Lazare talked about what it meant to belong in the court and the tug-of-war between his desires and his parents. Chandon, was equally enticing as a character, and I couldn’t resist his charm.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable book. As a Francophile, I loved the little bits of French inserted into the story and enjoyed revisiting some of the streets and sites I saw in Paris when I studied abroad there. Enchantée gets the extra half star because I’m a sucker for a good take on the rags-to-riches romance and a strong female lead. Despite its flaw, this was a fun book to read.