“Trelease’s tale deftly weaves together fantasy, history, sisterly conflict, and young love into a rich tapestry. Her story brims with lovely, vivid descriptions . . .”
In a Paris teetering on the brink of the French Revolution, two orphaned sisters struggle to survive on the streets. Seventeen-year-old Camille tries to provide for her younger sister Sophie using the only tool left to her: a gift for magic inherited from her once-aristocratic mother. No fancy conjuring, this—when we meet Camille, she’s transforming nails and iron scraps into coins to pay for enough food to keep them alive.
But when their cruel, drunken brother Alain, addicted to gambling and laudanum, seizes what little Camille has put aside for rent, she’s forced into more desperate measures. Following her mother’s advice, she had always stuck to la magie ordinaire (ordinary magic) to meet their needs. But now she dares to try la glamoire, the dangerous magic of changing one’s appearance. She opens a mysterious trunk and removes an enchanted garment:
“The dress was ravenous. Camille could feel its hunger, its desperation to be freed from the box. . . . It had known what she needed. Her new face, the clothes, her steadiness, all of it was armor fashioned especially for her. A new and perfect self. And, if she was lucky, a new life.”
Through la glamoire, Camille transforms herself, assuming the identity of a baroness, and goes to Versailles to gamble. There, she discovers a talent for transforming cards, as well as another magician practicing his own card-changing skills to win.
Although Camille had previously looked down on the haughty aristocrats, she finds they’re not all as bad as she thought, and while she returns again and again mostly to earn some savings, she also forms friendships with some of the courtiers. But the dangerous magic demands a price, and it weakens her every time she uses it.
On a brief respite in the country with her sister, Camille encounters some runaway balloonists and bravely helps them land their craft. But their balloon wasn’t all that fell; Camille falls, too, for the mysterious aeronaut Lazare. She begins hoping for more, and dreams of quitting the magic-aided gambling to lead a more normal life. But it’s not that simple. Camille is keeping far too many secrets—from her sister, from Lazare, from the people at court—and it all begins to weigh her down.
Her two worlds collide when Lazare shows up for the gambling and games at Versailles. Does he recognize her? Is he falling for her alter ego, the phony baroness, or does he see through the magical façade to the real Camille? As revolution nears, so does a dark magician who will stop at nothing to preserve the old order—even if it means using Camille to do so. But it’s hard to tell friends from enemies in the world of Versailles, as all the courtiers are masters of deception:
“It was all a dance. Things were said that had to be said, things were done that had to be done, like steps in a dance, a pattern that everyone followed because—because if they didn’t, what would happen? No one wanted to know. It could mean chaos, collapse.”
Trelease’s tale deftly weaves together fantasy, history, sisterly conflict, and young love into a rich tapestry. Her story brims with lovely, vivid descriptions, like Camille’s first visit to the opera as the baroness:
“The problems of the characters were so familiar, but the singing elevated their concerns, their foolishness, and their heartache until those things felt larger than life—which is how feelings felt. Too big for speaking, they could find their perfect shape in song.”
Like the opera singers, Trelease has created a tale both familiar and larger than life. Lovers of fantasy and historical fiction will be eager to step into the world of Enchantée, which is, they’ll be happy to know, the inaugural book of a new series.