Book Review: Enchantee by Gita Trelease

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Pages: 480
About: 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…

My heart is aching, this was such a perfect book for me. It is charming, hopeful and gracefully historic. I’ve had an inexplicable and emotional draw to the French Revolution for as long as I can remember. The ancien regime and the civil unrest that led to the end of the French monarchy has always held my attention. I have a theory as to what was the root cause of the breakdown within French society, but I’ve needed to find someone more read in the history than me.
I knew I would enjoy this book going in, perhaps be a little critical if history was not played out quite right but I k. Never, in my wildest dreams did I think I would have my heart stolen and my senses transported to such an authentic (yet utterly magical) world. Move over The Night Circus and make space for your literary equal.
Normally, it is the characters that pull me in first; there’s something about them that makes me root for them. While it’s fair to say this is true of the gorgeous and loyal Camile, it is the author’s use of language that charmed me so utterly that I was torn from the moment the first chapter ended; on one hand, I wanted to devour this story in one sitting but, on the other I wanted to savour it and make the book last forever. The use of French is the key. In other books, it wouldn’t have sat so organically beside the English. There’s a glossary, but the phrases and words are so well integrated into the dialogue that I certainly didn’t feel the need to search their meaning.
There are so many characters that bring life to this entwining plot of magicians, class system and the romance. As a reader, you will be as confused and lost as Camille when it comes to your appraisal of some characters, whereas others will win you over instantly.
I must say, I didn’t see the ending coming; literally and figuratively. I was so enchanted by the storytelling that I am still processing that I’ve read the final page let alone the fact that I missed something that with a lesser writer I would have called much earlier.
I cannot wait to reread this novel once I have the physical book in my hands and I am already looking forward to what Gita Trelease will publish next as I will forever be a devoted fan.

Love Han x

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