Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3+
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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…
Thank goodness Enchantée lived up to my expectations! I was so excited for this book: a fantasy set in Revolutionary France, who could resist?! Trelease delivered on everything I was hoping for.
The strongest suit of this book was the lovely writing. Enchantée is incredibly immersive, pulling you into the squalor of the poor and the opulence of the rich. While not bothering to paint every little thing in vivid detail, Trelease nevertheless made me feel as if I was there. Likewise her characters leaped off the page. Nobody fell flat, or felt predictable. This book and the characters in it seemed to breathe right off the page.
La Magie was wonderful. In 2019 it’s hard to find something to say about magic in YA that hasn’t already been beaten to death, but Trelease managed to create something completely unique and utterly fascinating. By connecting her magic to sorrow, she allowed Enchantée to follow in the tradition of Les Misérables, A Tale of Two Cities, and other stories of the Revolution. She explored the darker side of magic in a way that felt juicy, desperate, and enticing.
But despite the darker elements of La Magie, the book still felt light and fresh. Fun, romantic, whimsical, all of the things you would expect from Marie Antoinette’s court. I loved the feeling I had while reading Enchantée.
The romance! I was all about this romance. It is no surprise to my readers that I a sucker for first-love, and for romances that dance around the borders of historical propriety. I will take “Our hands were almost touching, squee!” over a kissing scene any day. The chemistry between Camille and Lazare was oh-so-sweet and hit me right in the feels. But aside from their chemistry, I appreciated how they challenged each other and grew as people.
I loved the sisterly relationship in this book. Camille and Sophie are so supportive of each other, but they don’t always agree. It was really nice to see some sisterly bickering in a healthy way on the page. The female friendships were also supportive, and I was so glad to read something with so many female characters that was backstabbing and drama-free!
As a historical goes, Trelease may have copped out on showing the most depressing side of Revolutionary France. She danced around it at the beginning, but our characters are conveniently able to use magic to rise above their station into the glitz of the aristocracy. Still, it was interesting to read a historical perspective on aeronautics and people of color. I would have liked a little bit more authenticity when it comes to other characters’ attitudes toward minority and queer characters, but it was more or less what I would expect from a YA novel in 2019.
My only critique of this book is that the ending felt weak. Camille’s confusion about the villain and what his plan was frustrated me because it seemed so obvious. Then after the climax ended, there was a lot of exposition and explaining (then re-explaining) what happened and why. Which seemed especially unnecessary in light of the obvious-ness of the villain’s scheme and motivations. The Revolutionary drama is sadly glossed over right at the end, and Camille’s decisions regarding what to do next and whether they are safe don’t seem as though she’s actually considered what is going on. It just seemed … off compared to her attitude through the rest of the book.
All in all I would HIGHLY recommend Enchantée to anyone who enjoys YA. It’s romantic, fun, magical, and had just the right feel of hopefulness that I think we need this year.