Series: It was written as a standalone, though a companion sequel is on the way.
Author: Gita Trelease
Release Date: 21st February 2019
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s
My Rating: 3 Stars
“A compellingly beautiful tale of magic, intrigue and deception, set against the backdrop of eighteenth-century Paris on the cusp of revolution.
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.”
This book was kindly gifted to me by Macmillan. This is no way affects my thoughts or opinions.
So, Enchantée was one of my most anticipated releases of the year – a French revolution historic fantasy sounded so unique to me and a real break from the same old high fantasy worlds. Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to my expectations of it. It moved so slowly and ended up taking me a whole week of it being my only read to get through it, and honestly, a lot of the time I was pretty bored just waiting for something to happen. It’s definitely not at all bad though, there were many things I really liked about it.
One such thing was just the whole setting and vibe of the book. It was set between the streets of Paris and the court of the palace of Versailles. Through the eyes of our MC Camille, we experience the poverty and class divisions that led to the French Revolution, but we also get to experience the glittering appeal of the French aristocracy. The descriptions of gowns and late 1700s French fashion were lush and gorgeous. I really enjoyed it. I loved how we had sympathy for both those in poverty and the aristocracy. This gave us two sides of the coin when lots of famous fiction set at this time sympathises mostly with the working class. I really got a feel of how court politics worked at the time and the power of money and status, but also the beautiful architecture and fun parties – this novel really showcases both the danger and joy of the higher classes.
This book was peppered with a really interesting magic system, that had a really traditional magician/sorcerer vibe to it, which I love. In Enchantée there are three types of magic; la magie ordinaire, glamoire and le magie bibelot. Le magie ordinare is the act of using magic to change one object to look different, glamoire is changing one’s appearance and bibelot is bringing life to an object. The catch is that to fuel one’s magic, one has to channel sorrow, and if you do not feel enough sorrow the magic won’t hold. The effects this has on the characters who work le magie is interesting and brings a whole cost/benefit element to the use of magic. However, le magie bibelot may as well not have existed. We never see it used outright and it’s barely talked about. It seems really undeveloped, especially for a book that was intended to be a standalone.
There are a few elements to the plot that are like this, that could just use a bit more time to be developed, and others that need less time and just need to move on a bit quicker. I felt this a lot with the plot in general, whilst I was enjoying it and enjoying the characters, everything just crawled on super slowly and didn’t really hold my interest. I’d end up getting distracted after a few pages and picking up my phone because even thought I liked the plot, it just wasn’t fast paced and engaging. This is me trying to be a critical reader here – as vibrant and lush as the setting was and as much as I wanted to love it, I just can’t ignore that the pacing was off. It could have benefitted from some bigger twists and dramatics throughout and some condensation of the many very similar court scenes.
With all of this said, the writing was absolutely beautiful. The descriptions were vivid and rich, and the characters were nicely fleshed out. Gita Trelease has a lot of potential, not forgettting that she was born in Sweden, and anyone who can write so beautifully in a language that is not their first is a total badass. This is only her debut, and I’m sure with feedback from her first release, her writing will only improve. With the help of a really good editor to tuck in the drawn out areas, and get the pacing spot on, Enchantée could have been really great. Unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the mark this time, but I’d be interested to give Trelease another shot in the future.