Hello dears 🙂 I’m so behind with my reviews! I actually read this book way back at the beginning of August and I’m only just getting round to sharing my thoughts with you! But hopefully, you’ll find them worth the wait 😉
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…
This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was hearing buzz about this one for months before it came out and it sounded like the exact kind of book I would enjoy. Then some disappointed reviews started to creep in and I got nervous. Turns out, my gut instinct was pretty accurate because this was definitely a book for me.
From the outset, I could picture everything so clearly. I thought the author did a brilliant job with her world-building; she included lots of sensory detail, which is something I always enjoy. I felt completely transported to the luxurious halls of Versailles. And I loved all the court politics! It was like something from an Austen novel but in a much more easily-accessible form. (I have no issue with Jane Austen, by the way, but I know some people struggle with classic literature!)
Add to this the exquisite magic system and I was giving it major heart-eyes over the descriptions. This was seriously so gorgeous. Yes, there wasn’t a lot of explanation behind how ‘la magie’ worked but I think that would have bogged everything down; the book is almost 500 pages as it stands and I don’t think long-winded explanations would have helped it in any way. I was happy to just suspend my disbelief and go with it.
Trelease excels further in her characterisation. While Camille could at times get a little bit whiney, I liked her for the most part. And I shipped her and Lazare so hard ❤ Because it’s young adult so you know there’s got to be a romance in there somewhere 😉 Honestly though, this was a romance I was definitely cheering for!
I also loved Camille’s sister Sophie (if anyone has read Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, Sophie reminded me a lot of Ivy!) The villains in the story are also suitably nasty; there are moments when they border on the caricature but Trelease does try to give them decent motives and make them feel fully realised, and I didn’t think she did too bad a job.
Overall, I would say that if you like the sound of this one, you should definitely give it a try! It’s sumptuous and magical and made me feel totally transported. I think this was a great debut and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this one and what you thought of it! x