"There is certainly a nod to a more stark retelling of the Cinderella story here, Camille uses magic to enter the glittering court at Versailles, making friends quickly who smooth her way in society under an assumed name."
Young Adult / fantasy
Camille is living in rented rooms in Paris in 1789 with her sister Sophie and brother Alain after their parents both died. With too little money to feed themselves and pay the rent, and Alain escaping the misery by gambling and getting drunk, Camille despairs of her day-to-day existence. Alain steals every sou he can find, and the only way Camille can replace them is to use the only talent she has - magic. She 'turns' old pieces of metal into coin but they never remain coins for long, and the more weary she grows, the weaker the magic and she risks being found out. When Alain breaks in to the apartment and steals everything of any value, including their dresses and the money Camille has locked in a trunk, the sisters have nothing left, save an old, burned trunk that smells of charred wood all the time, and that their mother had always warned them to leave well alone. What is in the burned trunk, and can it in any save them?
Enchantée is a young adult novel and like many of the genre, where explicit love can't be portrayed, intense emotion takes its place and ensures this is a roller-coaster of a read that grips and enchants.
There is certainly a nod to a more stark retelling of the Cinderella story here; Camille uses magic to enter the glittering court at Versailles, making friends quickly who smooth her way in society under an assumed name. Trelease uses this device to create a whole world of magic and magicians that portray magic as something sinister and not good, and those that use it as cheating or underhand. It is not to be admired.
The cast of characters at Versailles is colourful and fun: Aurélie, a married girl who stays at Versailles to keep away from her husband; Chandon who is in love with a dashing cavalry officer; Séguin, too smooth, too perfect, who carries the same unnerving stench as the burned trunk; Lazare Mellais who is also hiding something, just as Camille is.
If I had to be critical it would be that the sense of peril is never that intense. There are no shocks along the way that leave the cast in any real danger from each other. Any peril comes from the change that French society is beginning to experience, the first days of the Revolution. But there is enough to feel fairly secure that it will work out well enough.
Not as complex as some of the genre, the characters maybe not as well drawn or distinct enough from each other; a slightly slow start from the POV of a character that has no place in the story and should have been edited out but despite these small negatives, I couldn't put it down. The storytelling swirls away with you and you find yourself reading in a French accent.
© Nicky Galliers
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