Written by Gita Trelease
Published by Flatiron/Macmillan, February 5, 2019
My star rating – 4 stars
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… Find it on Goodreads
I’ve always been a huge historical fiction fan. But – to come across one set at Versailles in the 1700’s at the time of Marie Antoinette??? Yes please! Then add in the other unique elements like the balloonist….. this one was right up my alley!
I’ll get my slightly negative thoughts out of the way before I go into detail with the rest. I’m not going to lie, this one was a really slow start for me. I found my thoughts wandering as I wondered when the story was really going to begin. In the beginning there’s a lot of set up, character building, and plot building happening. I struggled until about page 90 before I was really invested in this story. So, if it’s a slow start for you as well, I PROMISE it does pick up! After that point I fell in love with everything.
What I loved most about this book was the atmosphere and the world building. Our main character Camille is living with her brother and sister in a small apartment, orphaned, after her parents died. They’re poor and struggling to pay the rent and eat. This is a very dark time for all of them, and the picture is painted well. Then, when an opportunity arises, Camille goes to Versailles acting as a Baroness, and the setting is the polar opposite. Everything is lavish, royal, guided, and golden. When she first goes to Versailles, I was thoroughly convinced that I was going to have strawberries, macaroons, and champagne for dinner! Both settings were so clearly visualized in my mind.
Along with this dual setting comes a lot more parallels. Camille is a poor girl, struggling to support her siblings, and on the verge of being kicked out on the streets. Then suddenly she’s thrust into this world where people seem bored with the amount of things they have and don’t struggle for anything. She’s living this dual life and the lines are terribly blurred. Things from one side of her life start to seep into the other and it becomes this vicarious balancing act. But this balancing act also proves something in the end – that, no matter your circumstances, beauty can be found anywhere!
And then there’s the magic – yes, magic! Camille has the ability to turn small metal objects into coins. They don’t stay coins forever though, and she’s forced to make her purchases quickly then never return to the same place. But when her brother overindulges in drink and gambling, she finds themselves in a deeper financial hole than she can crawl out with this small magic tricks. This is when she delves a little further into the world of magic. She learned these tricks from her mother, but her mother died before she passed on all her knowledge and information. Camille is trust into this new lifestyle while also trying to navigate her powers. I do wish that the magic was a little more explained throughout. I got enough to just understand it, but there was so much more that people were capable of and it was left out to dry a little. I crave detail, and a little too much was left to the imagination for my tastes.
Another aspect that I absolutely loved was the inclusion of the hot air balloons in the plot. It might sound like something simple, but it finds a way to broaden the thoughts and emotions of the characters and their situation.
Despite this books slow start, I ended up really enjoying it! I love the setting, the dual settings and lives of the characters, the magic, and the relationships!!! What I wouldn’t give for just one day in Versailles with this group to play cards with! Now please excuse me while I go and search for some strawberries, macaroons, and champagne!!
EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR Q&A!!
First of all, I have to say, that I was beyond excited to read this novel! There are so many interesting and unique elements that captured my attention! Have you always been interested in this period of time in history? And what was your inspiration for having a balloonist in the story? I’ve always been obsessed with hot air balloons and I imagine this being a whimsical element to the story.
When I was in grad school studying English Literature, my main period of study was nineteenth-century British literature, and the French Revolution was adjacent to that, so I knew a little about it before I started. I’d lived in Paris and visited Versailles, but I think I started to become really fascinated by it when I saw Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette – mostly by its aesthetic and how young all the major players were. Teens had a lot of agency and responsibility, which made for an interesting way into the story.
Like you, I’m obsessed with hot-air balloons – I find them to be completely magical! When I was brainstorming the story, I happened to read an account of a girl who rescued a falling balloonist during the hot-air balloon craze of the 1780’s, and I wondered: Who was she? Why would she do something like that when everyone else was too afraid to help? She reminded me a bit of my protagonist, Camille, and so I began to weave in the balloon plot into the larger story. In Enchantée, hot-air balloons speak to so many of the story’s themes: new perspectives, freedom, the desire to rise and be transformed.
If the synopsis and my review didn’t convince you enough to read this book, then I sure hope that her answer to my question did! I was astounded that she also became obsessed with this time period because of the movie Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola! I remember being in complete awe with that movie and feeling the need to know everything about Marie Antoinette and her dynasty! Until now, I thought that I was the only one that fell in love with that movie!
Until next time, happy reading!