No One Expects the French Revolution: A Review of Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Welcome to the French Revolution!
This week we’ll be taking a look at the 2019 novel Enchantée. This historical fiction, fantasy tale is the debut novel of Gita Trelease, and is slated to have its sequel published in July of 2021.
On the eve of the French Revolution, our young heroine, Camille, is tasked with taking care of her sick younger sister Sophie. Their mom and dad have died due to smallpox; leaving Camille and Sophie in the care of their drunk, gambling addict, abusive older brother Alain. Sadly, before his death, their dad was caught printing revolutionary pamphlets and fliers thus bankrupting the family because none of his aristocratic clients could be caught dead having anything printed from a revolutionary.
The only thing the parents left their children were a decrepit apartment in a poorer part of Paris, and the ability to perform magic. Camille is the only one who is able to actually perform said magic, leaving her with the task to use her sorrow to transform scrap metal into coins, but if she gets caught, it’ll be all over for her.
You see, Camille is unable to keep the glamour on the scrap metal for longer than a few hours. Not the greatest when you’re just trying to survive.
In this world, there are three types of magic: Magie Ordinaire, Magie Glamoire, and Magie Bibelot. Magie Ordinaire is magic used to change items and is the easiest form of magic to use. Then there is Magie Glamoire, the ability to change one’s self, and is the most used form of magic in Enchantée. Finally, there is Magie Bibelot where objects can be turned sentient. The final form is not really used in this book, but I imagine it will be more used in the sequel.
The majority of the plot revolves around Camille using her magic to transform herself into an aristocrat and rob the wealthy blind at Versailles through card games where she can change the card faces in her favor.
While we love that, the plot is very guessable.
After each event happens, I could easily guess what would happen next. For instance, at the beginning of the novel Camille has to confront her brother at a gambling den. At said location he is found drunk and has gambled away a few objects of his sisters; it is up to Camille to win them back and she does so through magic. Once this happens you can easily guess she’s going to use magic to change herself and proceed to bleed the upper class dry.
Another example of this is Camille’s love interest Lazare. He is a young man with a passion for learning, adventure, and liberty. He is an aeronaut and has a meet cute with Camille early on in the book when she rescues his balloon. Anyway, upon meeting him and realizing that Camille was going to be stealing from Versailles, I knew that he was going to end up at the palace when Camille was in her disguise. I was wrong about how they met at the palace though; points to Trelease for that.
I think the writing of the book is very good, but it’s just plot point after guessable plot point. I love the descriptions that are in this book though. Trelease crafted a beautiful world of both the dirty Parisian underbelly and the glamour, intrigue, and dark secrets of Versailles. Revolutionary France easily lends itself to historical fiction novels, and Enchantée is no different.
The world of Enchantée is grounded in realism. The historical events that lead up to the revolution make up the book’s timeline, but the fictional events are what drive the plot forward; which is only helped by Camille’s need to survive and thrive. The magic in the book, while a big part of the plot, is kept grounded. Not everything can easily be solved by magic, Camille uses her wit and wiles just as much as she does magic. In this story, magic is painful. Blood is needed for some things to work, it’s mentally and physically draining, and is fueled by depressive thoughts.
I would have enjoyed some more backstory or history on magic, how it occurs, where it comes from. None of those really are answered in the book as the heroine doesn’t know much of how or where her powers come from outside of them coming from her mother’s side of the family. Again, I imagine that there will be more backstory on where this magic comes from in the sequel.
As you may have guessed by now, there is a trigger warning for this book. Earlier I mentioned the one character, Alain, who is the older brother of Sophie and Camille, is an abuser. He is both mentally and physically abusive towards his younger sisters. While he is not in the story much past the first third of the book, Trelease does not back away from including some graphic scenes involving his physical abuse so please read this book at your own discretion.
I also want to include a trigger warning for addiction; specifically drug addiction. Technically, no one uses drugs in the novel. But whilst reading this book, I read the use and side effects of magic as an allegory for drug addiction and drug abuse.
Often times Camille will spend a night using her magic only to return home and feel weak, shaking, and wanting to use magic again to make herself feel better. If that isn’t an allegory for drug addiction, I don’t know what is.
This allegory isn’t in your face though; which I appreciated. The story is very much a story of a young woman taking control of her life and saving her family through unusual means, but if you’re looking for a deeper meaning in the text, it is there.
As you also may have noticed, I haven’t talked much on the characters or my thoughts on them. Most of the time I typically talk about how much I hate a character; which is good because the author made me feel something towards the character in question. With this book though, I didn’t feel anything towards the characters. I appreciate that Trelease keeps Camille grounded in reality while she still is capable of magic, but outside of that I could care less about her. All the characters in Enchantée are just blah to me.
Enchantée is a long novel, there are roughly 450 pages, but it’s a quick read; I read my copy over the course of four days. I thoroughly enjoyed Gita Trelease’s debut novel. It has its faults like all books do, but I think the world that was created has a lot of promise left. The sequel is definitely something I’ll pick up when the time comes. At the same time, if you want a stand alone book, this one works as that as well.