YA Review: Enchantée

Title: Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Camille and her sister are struggling to survive in Paris in 1789. Orphaned by smallpox and exploited by their drunk, gambling-addicted brother, Camille and Sophie must find a way to pay the rent and buy food. Sophie is a talented hat-maker, but her earnings are not enough to cover their costs. Reluctantly, Camille begins to work the magic her mother taught her. Turning scrap metal into coins pays for essentials, but the coins don’t hold their shape. When Camille discovers the tools to work more powerful spells, she follows her brother into the dangerous world of gambling at Versailles. Disguised as a Baroness, she makes friends among the aristocrats of the palace, and learns to earn a living from their games of cards. But magic requires sacrifce, and Camille discovers how hard it is to walk away from the gambling table, and from her friends. As Paris moves towards revolution, Camille must keep herself safe as her family life and her double life at court collide.

In Enchantée, Gita Trelease paints a vivid picture of Paris in the early stages of revolution. The details – from fashion, politics, the experience of poverty, and the texture of the city to the manners and expectations of the aristocrats at Versailles – are carefully researched and beautifully woven into the story. Magic is explained as a secret skill, passed down through aristocratic families, but used at great personal cost. The magic used by Camille feels real, and dangerous. It takes practice to perfect the spells, it doesn’t always work as intended, and it always requires sorrow to work at all.

Camille is an interesting character. She does what needs to be done to keep herself and her sister safe, but the secrets she keeps from the people around her grow more complicated and dangerous as she moves deeper into the court at Versailles. The story is told from Camille’s point of view, but with third-person past-tense narration. While I found the book engaging, I also felt that the story moved very slowly, probably because of the detachment of a third-person past-tense narrative.

I loved Camille, I loved Sophie, and I loved Lazare – the daring aeronaut with his ground-breaking hot air balloon. I enjoyed the intrigue of Camille’s double life, growing in complexity against the background of mounting political upheaval. I enjoyed the cameo appearances of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and getting to meet the very human aristocrats of Versailles. The history of the French Revolution is usually told from the point of view of the winners, so it makes a change to see the build up to revolution through the eyes of the rulers who lose everything when the people turn against them. The author uses aristocratic magic as a metaphor for the pre-revolution power of the court, adding to the tension and danger of political change.

Enchantée is an engaging story with a strong and sympathetic female protagonist, set in richly imagined and gorgeously described historical locations, and told with an enchanting dash of magic.

Have you read Enchantée? What did you think? Did you find Camille’s story engaging? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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