Title: Enchantée (2019)
Author: Gita Trelease
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: 21st February 2019
Read: 23rd – 26th January 2019
Genre: fantasy; young-adult; historical fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries – and magicians… When seventeen-year-old Camille is left orphaned, she has to provide for her frail sister and her volatile brother. In desperation, she survives by using the petty magic she learnt from her mother. But when her brother disappears Camille decides to pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Using dark magic Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine‘ and presents herself at the court of Versaille, where she soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying life of riches, finery and suitors. But Camille’s resentment of the rich is at odds with the allure of their glamour and excess, and she soon discovers that she’s not the only one leading a double life.” (Synopsis from publisher)
“Maman had taught her that there were three kinds of magic. Magie ordinaire, for changing things. Glamoire, for changing oneself. And magie bibelot, for imbuing objects with magic, making them sentient.”
Enchantée tells the story of Camille, an orphan in eighteenth-century France who has become the sole provider for her outgoing but sickly younger sister and her abusive, alcoholic older brother. The everyday concerns of how to steal enough food for them to eat or gather enough money for them to make rent disappear into the background as Gita Trelease layers on top of this historical setting the idea of la magie, a power that gives its users the ability to change objects, including oneself, which at an appearance-obsessed court at Versailles is an indispensable power. Camille first encounters magie‘s power far from this world of glittering aristocracy; instead, she is forced to pry the nails from her home’s floorboards in order to magie them into coins so she can buy sustenance for her family. From the very start, the two worlds are painted in stark contrast, a division that deepens throughout Enchantée as Camille becomes more and more embroiled with the higher echelons when she uses glamoire to become the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and break bread with the upper crust of society with comes with its own dangers. For magie and glamoire has its price – it can only be wielded from a place of true sorrow and it may even require (ghastly though it may be) literal blood to be spilled too.
“As soon as she had enough for all their dreams, she would stop working magic. The problem was she didn’t know how much it would take.”
Enchantée deals quite openly with the idea of poverty, the true hardships of not knowing where the next meal will come from, and with the idea of a young woman being placed in a position of responsibility, of having to be the sole provider for her family, in a society which doesn’t leave her many avenues through which to earn money and keep a house. Explicitly too, Gita Trelease introduces the idea of the dangers that can befall those addicted to gambling – whilst searching for a sign of her delinquent older brother at the gaming tables, Camille finds herself drawn to the tables, first as a way to swindle unsuspecting nobles out of their money, and then later as she becomes more embroiled in the society and parties that gather around such tables. I didn’t expect Trelease’s magic novel to be quite so grounded in reality, nor to have the much more sinister and darker undertone that seeps through as the story progresses and Camille learns of the dangers lurking amongst the aristocratic circle.
“Gamblers and cheaters, drunks and magicians. Champagne or opium, girls or boys, cards or dice, dreams or nightmares: at the Palais-Royal, you picked your own delight –or poison.”
Although Camille was a strong and compelling enough heroine, despite my better judgement I actually found myself most interested in the side characters that she encounters, from Chandon to Sablebois, Séguin to Aurélie, and I particularly enjoyed Lazare and Rosier and their amazing balloon expedition experiment. I am a bit of a sucker for an enterprising, inventive young man so it’s not altogether surprising I found myself falling hard for Lazare and his dream of flying a hot air balloon over the Alps. I wouldn’t say I was altogether surprised by the journey his character took as the novel progressed (but maybe I’ve seen that particular trope done too many times in stories?), but I did enjoy seeing the blossoming friendship and then romantic dynamic between him and Camille which is only made all the more complicated when she spends more and more time masquerading (almost literally, thanks to her glamoire-d appearance) by night as a wealthy, widowed baroness at Versailles.
“Each time she won, she tried to judge Chandon’s reaction. But he was a consummate actor, a perfect courtier: nothing showed on his face that he wished to hide.”
In conclusion, this was a captivating and compelling historical fantasy novel that will delight anyone fond of the France of this historical era. Personally, I thought that the narrative voice of Camille seemed catered to the younger end of YA fantasy, but I certainly wouldn’t let that stop you from reading the novel. In this, her debut novel, Gita Trelease has created an enchanting vision of France that should transport its readers back to a late eighteenth century Paris where revolution is beginning to spark and magic is intrinsic to aristocratic life as well as its power being feared. As someone with a penchant for reading stories about revolutionary France, Enchantée was right up my street and will likely be up many a reader’s too.
“There were thousands of aristocrats like him. Possibly they were magicians, but more than that, they were people who believed in the old ways, the hierarchies and the taxes, the muzzled press and the class system and the rules. If there was any hope for France, the system would have to be taken down, piece by piece.”
Thank you to Pan Macmillan/Macmillan Children’s Books for kindly providing me with an eARC of the book via NetGalley – I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read and review titles prior to their release, but this does not affect my overall opinion or review of the book itself.
Please note: the quotes above were taken from the eARC copy of the novel – this may be subject to change and differ from the published text of the novel.