ENCHANTÉE (Enchantée #1) - by Gita Trelease

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Published: February 2019 - Macmillan.
Genres: Young adult / historical fantasy / romance.
Pages: 459.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Substance abuse / gambling / inexplicit sexual innuendos / mild violence.
Format: ARC Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

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 have always been fascinated by the French Revolution, and this book promised a magical spin on its historical context.

Gita Trelease's writing is lovely. It is flowery, but it's not too flowery. The scenes are vivid, the dialogue is decent, and the atmosphere consumes you like a sweet-scented embrace. Whether it's the gritty, smoky streets of Paris or the opulent, glittering courts of Versailles, the setting is rich and atmospheric.

The plot is a huge disappointment. It's painfully slow, and the story lacks purpose. Incidents are random, they're poorly tied together, and Camille spends the whole time simply reacting; her choices, for the most part, don't drive the book. Secondary characters do things that cause conflict, but Camille is always on the sidelines. I wanted her to take charge, make stuff happen, and not just small things, but major things - things that would actually cause repercussions and set events in motion.

I couldn't connect to the story, either. Camille and Sophie go through hardships, but it's all very romanticised and the author keeps things fluffy. I didn't feel for the characters, I didn't feel for what was happening on the page in front of me, and that was because it was either too random, too pretty, or too poorly developed. If the plot was tightened up, the book would be stronger.

Who would help you when you were brought this low? No matter how hard you toiled, you would never rise, never have enough for a safe bed, a loaf of bread, a pair of shoes. Because in every instance, the cards were stacked against you. When you were that poor, no one cared if you lived or died. Not even magic could save you then.

Camille is a soft but ambitious heroine. I liked her, but she also faded too much into the stereotypical "feisty and innocent girl" who ends up as the damsel in distress one too many times. Her character could be stronger, and by stronger I mean she could be more three-dimensional. Give her some quirks, some strong attributes that leap from the page, and she could take command of the narrative. That's what you need in a protagonist. It's too similar to the whole Scarlett and Tella dynamic in Caraval: the younger sister (in this case Sophie) ends up being the more compelling character we all wish was the protagonist.

The relationships in this novel are mediocre. I love the siblings (Sophie and Camille's bond is beautiful) but Camille's friendships with Chandon and Aureliéher romance with Lazare, and her conflict with Seguin are weak. Seguin is the stereotypically cocky and good looking rich boy who's the primary antagonist, and I thought his scenes with Camille near the end of the book were ridiculously predictable and cliche. Camille's friendships with Chandon and Aurelié are sweet, but their characters aren't particularly memorable, either.

Watching Lazare and Camille's relationship is like watching paint dry. I'm sorry, but it is. The only redeeming aspect of Lazare's character is that he's biracial and the author actually addresses the struggles he faces in this historical context. Otherwise, though, he's a caricature of the kind, protective, good-hearted love interest. He has no dimension, he has no fleshed out personality. He's  not compelling.
When you get to Lazare and Camille's relationship, it's just dull. They have zero chemistry. They have nothing in common (apart from a passion for hot air balloons). They have no "spark" or genuine connection that tells you why they're together. There's nothing between them. I know that Lazare is supposed to emphasise the importance of hope in Camille's life, but this is barely significant because their relationship is so dry and unconvincing.

Enchantée is an enchanting romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Caraval and The Belles 
If not for the weak plot and uninspired characters, I would have loved it, too. 

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