This is our book club pick for August 2019. If you’ve read it, let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Enchantée tells the story of Camille Durbonne, an orphan living in Paris during the lead up to the French Revolution. In Trelease’s reimagining of the year 1789, la magie (magic) is real but outlawed by society’s aristocracy.
After her parents die of smallpox and her older brother, Alain, gambles away their money, Camille works magic to care for her family, turning scraps of metal into coins. One night after a fight with her brother turns violent, Alain runs off with the family’s small fortune, leaving Camille and their ill sister, Sophie, to pick up the pieces of their already fragile life.
Facing eviction from their apartment and the possibility of being sold to a brothel, Camille uses glamour and transforms herself into the Baroness de la Fontaine. Every evening, Camille goes to Versailles to gamble at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Soon, she starts winning— and winning big.
While at court, Camille meets a cast of characters: Aurelie, the heiress with a heart of gold, Chandon, a fellow magician, and the Vicomte de Séguin, who is vying for the Baroness’ affections…but may not have the most chivalrous of intentions. To complicate matters, the balloonist Camille has fallen in love with, Lazare, arrives at court. Soon, Camille’s real and magical lives intertwine, threatening to reveal her secrets.
Camille’s newfound riches come with a cost: la magie is draining Camille and could be the downfall of the magical life she has conjured. When her lies begin to unravel, Camille must decide if la magie is worth the cost of losing those she loves.
Enchantée is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, and the author does an excellent job of world building. We could tell Trelease did her history homework and the book was very entertaining for this reason. This fact alone pleases two history nerds. We enjoyed following Camille and Sophie through Paris and Versailles. Unfortunately, the setting and world building were the two things we liked about this book.
The characters, including Camille, were lackluster despite their potential. The book was roughly 430 pages, and we felt that instead of focusing on world building, the author could have dedicated more space to character development. Chandon was witty and charming, and for a character so important to the plot line, he should have had better development. Instead, it felt like he was used to connect Plot A to Plot B— nothing more.
Also, the romance between Lazare and Camille did not seem believable for this reason. We could not connect with their characters, and their relationship was very surface level.
Finally, the conflict between Camille and the Vicomte was anti-climactic and felt hastily thrown together. Since the author spent so much time on world building, the conflict really did not develop until the last half of the book. The resolution and explanations for the conflict also fell flat. We were left thinking, “that’s it?!” once the antagonist’s reasoning was explained.
Overall, we’d give this book three stars. It was super entertaining but had no wow-factor. There are definitely much better historical fiction-esque YA novels out there!