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.
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…
I went into this book with no expectations and I have to say, I came away pleasantly surprised. Enchantée does a great job of balancing all of its many elements–the magic, the family issues, new friendships, the glitz and glam of court life, and a city on the edge of revolution.
I love historical fantasy, it’s one of my favorite subgenres and I do love the setting here. I think it’s an interesting choice setting it in Paris during the start of the revolution, even if much of the revolution is happening in the background of the story, you very much feel the effects of what is driving the people to want to revolt. The poor are very poor and the rich are very rich, the disparity between the levels of society is staggering and you start to realize this once Camille begins her trips to Versailles.
I think this is a story you read more for the characters and setting than the plot so I’m going to talk a lot about the characters, and there’s an interesting mix here to speak of. Camille, our protagonist, is sort of both worlds–her mother was an aristocrat while her father was a tradesman. Despite her mother’s heritage, Camille’s feelings on the aristocracy are very clear–she hates them and everything they stand for. And yet, using her magic, she disguises herself as one of them to try and make enough money at the gaming tables to support their family. Soon she begins to make friends among them and finds herself getting caught up in the drama of court life. She constantly has to remind herself where she came from and sometimes she’s more successful at this than others. I love that she is fighting hard to hold her family together, doing what she needs to take care of her sister. But because she works so hard she often gets a bit overbearing when dealing with her sister.
Camille and her sister Sophie’s relationship is back and forth all of the time between them getting along and fighting. It’s clear that Camille cares very much for her sister and wants the best for her. She doesn’t want Sophie to make any wrong decisions and Sophie, well, she’s a fifteen year old who acts like a fifteen year old. Her character very much reminds me of Lydia in Pride and Prejudice at times. So stubborn, so sure that she knows everything, but in truth so very naive. Sophie also believes in her brother for far too long in my opinion, and I was a little frustrated with the way she kept wavering back and forth on trusting Alain and trying at various times to convince Camille that he wasn’t bad despite seeing evidence to the contrary.
Alain, Camille and Sophie’s older brother, is one of the antagonists. He should have been someone they could count on, but it’s apparent he could not handle the responsibility of being the head of the family after their parents passed away and became a wastrel. He is a great character to hate. At one point I thought the author would try to make us a bit sympathetic to him, but he’s just someone I can’t feel sorry for at all, which is fine, but perhaps it would have been better if he were more nuanced. (Then again, are people always nuanced? Sometimes they just…go bad.) The other main protagonist (other than Camille’s struggles with society itself and abject poverty) you don’t really know is a true antagonist until near the end when all of a sudden the crazy is revealed. (Oh, hey, I’ve been crazy all along but just hid it well, weeee!). I’m not sure, exactly, on my feelings about how this was written but in the end it did a great job of ramping up the danger levels at the end of the story.
You have various side characters including two new groups of friends Camille makes. One is a group of balloonists she and her sister happen to run into when they are completing a test flight. Among them is Lazare, and they basically have a great meet-cute so you know immediately that he’s going to be a love interest. I found Lazare to be interesting too because although he seems straight forward his character becomes a bit of a mystery to be solved. I also thought the romance in this was very sweet even if I wish characters would, oh, I don’t know, communicate with each other. (One romance trope I am super tired of is people just not telling each other things so that some drama that needs to play out so the plot is prolonged.) Some of the other characters that are fun are the other gamblers Camille encounters at Versailles. Camille feels very conflicted when she makes friends with some of them because she wants to hate all aristocrats but can’t always do that once she gets to know some of them.
Honestly, Enchantée was a fun read–it made me feel angry at characters, at the unfairness of life, and also happy to see perseverance (and a bit of luck and magic) to be so well rewarded. 4/5 stars.