Friday, April 3, 2020

Review: Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Title: Enchantée
Series: Enchantée #1
Author: Gita Trelease
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: February 5th 2019
Source: Goodreads First Reads/Flatiron Books

Book Description:


When smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail 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 the dark magic she learned from 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. Her resentment of the rich at odds with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille is astonished to find that her would-be suitor Lazare, a handsome young inventor whom she thought shared her dreams of liberty, is also living a double life.

As the Baroness de la Fontaine, Camille gambles at cards and flirts, desperate to maintain her place at court and keep herself and her sister off the streets. But la magie has its costs. When a scheming courtier blackmails her and Lazare's affections shift, Camille loses control of her secrets. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose--love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality or la magie--before Paris burns.

Bestselling author of Caraval Stephanie Garber calls Enchantée "a lit firework crackling with treacherous magic, decadent romance, and disguises that take on lives of their own--deliciously addictive!" Gita Trelease's lush, imaginative debut fantasy is perfect for anyone looking for immersive magic in the world of Sofia Copola's Marie Antoinette.



Three and a half stars, rounded up.

What a good story. At the very base of it all, Gita Trelease is simply a talented story weaver.

This story had a lot going on. There's something in this book for everyone- French history, magic, revolution, fairy tale elements, romance, steampunk elements, betrayal, POC, LGBT, gambling, family, fashion, royalty. There's a lot to take in. Sometimes it seems like a bit too much at times, but it's nevertheless entertaining.

Something that Trelease does very well is "show" instead of "tell". She uses all five senses to conjure up such vivid imagery, especially when the lead character is in Versailles. What colors the candles glowed, how the pastries smelled, what sort of music played in the background. It's very easy to get swept up in the fantastical, yet somehow real, world of beaded dresses, powdered wigs, and Rococo symphonies. It would easily make a fantastic movie with the detailed imagery at play here.

The characters are pretty well developed, and I liked the lead, Camille, very much. She is pretty bad ass and makes sacrifices- even ones that arguably are "bad guy" decisions- for the ones she loves, and she owns it. She cares very passionately but isn't perfect and makes mistakes and learns from them. She encourages her sister and tries her best to protect her family, even the unlikable ones. The characters that you don't like, you don't like for a good reason, and the ones you love you cheer for. The love is very slow burning, but I adored Lazare, and I appreciated that he was of half-French, half-Indian descent. He struggled with his identity and it was an interesting plot to follow. He's not quite as he seems, both regal and an adventurer, honor-bound and humble. I was drawn to him as Camille was. I also appreciated the LGBT representation, albeit slight.

I think that the world building was fantastic, but a little bit misprioritized. The author does a magnificent job of building the world of Paris and Versailles, of revolution and royalty. However.... those things are real. I know what Paris was like, I've studied history, and I've read other books set here. What I wish had more backstory and detail was "la magie" or, the magic that some of the characters know. That's not common or assumed knowledge, and I wish a little more time was spent flushing out the magic components and history.

I think the pacing was a little off in spots too. Don't get me wrong- this book was incredibly entertaining, and overall I found it enjoyable. But clocking in at just under 500 pages, this isn't a quick read. Parts felt extremely slow, while others seemed rush. The "bad guy" plot didn't really gain steam until 3/4 of the way though, and it was a bit "foiled again, Batman!" when it arrived.

Another thing that sort of bugged me was that the French words aren't italicized or indicated at all. I speak French, so for me it didn't matter too much. But I can see that being an issue if I did not. Granted, there is a glossary of French words in the back, and my copy is an unfinished ARC, so perhaps this is not an issue in the finished copy.

All in all, this book is intriguing. If you're drawn into the likes of stories like Les Mis or Beauty and the Beast, then this book is more up your alleys. The historical components seem well researched and well blended with elements of magic, although I wish there was a little more magic throughout. The characters are the type you'll feel connected to, and with Trelease's skill at painting a textual picture you'll find yourself swept away to Marie Antoinette's court alongside magicians, gamblers, and aristocrats. While I might have had some issues with this book, I would definitely be interested in reading the sequel when it comes out in the future.

Thank you to Goodreads First Reads/Flatiron Books who gave me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.


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