I received an eARC from Pan Macmillan , via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Gita Trelease
Release date : 21/2/19 (UK)
(see breakdown below)
Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…
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…
Note: This book has characters with alcohol and gambling addition, who is also abusive and has moments that require self harm (that is not graphically described). If you are uncomfortable with these aspects this book may not be for you.
There was a lot of promise at the start of this book. We dive straight into such a beautiful magic system that has so much potential to lead to thrilling and exciting situations for our main character. The initial world building is fantastic giving us real insight into Camille and her situation. I really enjoyed Camille as a character, I liked her interaction with her sister Sophie. I also loved that Sophie despite having poor health did not fall into the “useless little sister” being shielded form the horrors of the world by the big sister, Sophie pulled her weight it just didn’t pay enough to lift them out of their situation especially with their brother. We get introduced to a fantastic love interest that also has hints of excitement with both the romance his hot air balloon. Explorations of the more seedier underworld of the Parisian aristocracy are dangled in front of us as we follow Camille’s search for her abusive and alcoholic brother, all set a steady pace that really does promise a magic filled adventure, with the start of the French Revolution peeking its self over the horizon ready to leap into the story.
Then as we revel generous and lavish descriptions of 18th century Parisian fashion and life at court, this book crashes to a snails place. We are taught about two out of the three uses of magic in the first 100 pages of the book and for the majority of the story these are the only ones used. One to make small changes in an objects appearance such as scrap metal into coins and one to change Camille’s appearance ( a glamour) so she fits in at court. The magic becomes almost mundane and boring, which is such a shame as it is a truly beautifully crafted system. However, Camille’s use of the magic never seems to drive any real consequences in fact things just seem to work out and that is disappointing especially with the description of what the magic requires to work etc.
The romance also never really builds any tension and becomes rather lack lustre, while initially the inclusion of the hot air balloon aspects were fun and exciting, it kinda turned into a bizarre little side plot that doesn’t really amount to much. While, in the beginning it, created this great juxtaposition between the Glamoured Camille at court and her real life in Paris it just sort fizzles out as the pacing slows.
The “villain” is also disappointing, he is more creepy than evil. He rarely appears and never seems to actually do anything other than be creepy and an asshole till the last few chapters which are so easily overcome that it seemed to fly by in a blink in an otherwise slow burn story. Even the start of the revolution just saunters passed without impact. I get the impression that Trelease wanted the start of the revolution to signify a feeling of change and hope within the book but it really misses this mark as it doesn’t seem to have an impact on any of the characters (even the aristocratic ones) or on Camille’s outcome. It just putters out. I just had the felling that you could remove all the French names and this story could have taken place in any pretty European style fantasy palace and city, with a poor vs rich divide.
I will preface that it was still an enjoyable read. The writing was beautiful and it was entertaining just not in the thrilling fantasy way. It had such a strong start that had me extremely excited that it could have been a five star read, it has so much intrigue and promise that I just ended up feeling disappointed. I didn’t dislike the book at all. It just missing the excitement after a while that would have pushed up my ratings.
ENDING – 5
STYLE AND PACE OF WRITING – 6
CHARACTERS – 6
ATMOSPHERE AND WORLDBUILDING – 5
PLOT – 5
ENJOYMENT – 6
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