ENCHANTÉE | Gita Trelease
Series: Enchantée (Book 1)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
“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…more“
Remember – magic is a cheater’s game, and everyone who sees it wants to play.
Enchantèe was one of the books I really looked forward to back in February. It had been a while since I read a historical fiction and so I was very excited to finally get into it. Even though there were many aspects of the book I admired, I can’t say that it was all that I had hoped for.
Trelease does a fantastic job in paying close attention to the visual/historical details of 18th century France. The dress, customs, and language are given some room to shine and the smaller details successfully contribute to the construction of a romantic vision of France on the brink of revolution.
Camille is an enjoyable character in that she is smart, headstrong, and wistful. She employs a great deal decisiveness when faced with adversity, namely that of her good-for-nothing brother and financial necessity. While magic, let alone blood magic, is frowned upon and kept secret, Camille is willing to do whatever it takes to discover a better life for her sister and for herself.
The family dynamic among Camille, her sister, and her brother is a strong point in the book. There are several points of contention among the siblings. Camille holds much love for her sister as well as the past self of her brother, while Sophie is naive in her distribution of love, choosing to trust both her siblings even though it is apparent one does not earn that trust. These combative emotions between the two sisters leads to interesting outcomes, some of which are much more dangerous than first realized.
Camille’s relationship with Lazare is also a glimmering aspect of the book. It’s not too quick in its development and the added focus of the hot air balloon project adds some whimsy to their delightful little romance. Lazare is a sweet love interest, though I can’t say much else. Which leads me to some of more disappointing parts of the book.
Magicians needed sorrow. And deep sorrow existed only because of love.”
Even though the book is centered on the idea of magic, it feels as if the magic is overlooked. The details of ordinary magic and blood magic are quickly introduced, but then the weight of their usage by Camille doesn’t hold as much gravity as it is supposed to, mostly because the scenes in which she relies on magic are few and entirely glossed over most times.
Gambling is already a suspenseful sport. Add some illegal magic and you have a natural source of suspension and thrill. The first gambling scene is tense but then all the gambling scenes thereafter suffer from being summed up and accelerated past in favor of romance and hot air balloons.
Also, the “villain” is completely unnecessary and by the end, completely contrived. Camille’s effort to conceal her identity while using illegal magic to solve her financial troubles, as well as the slow build up to the revolution are powerful enough to behave as proper sources of conflict. Adding a singular villain into the mix feels superfluous.
This was the Paris of the strivers, of those who dwelt low, not high. This was not the Paris of balloonists. It was her Paris, and it was the same as it had been this morning. But she, perhaps, was not.
I did mostly enjoy the ending, which leaves both a sense of hope and doom as the French Revolution is on the horizon. However, the book is very slow to build up to this point. It takes a while to get into Enchantée, but the characters are interesting, the atmosphere is well-developed, and the gilded depiction of Versailles and Paris are absolutely enchanting.