Enchantée by Gita Trelease didn't enchant me as much as I'd hoped

Title: Enchantée
Series: Enchantée #1
Author: Gita Trelease
Publication: 21 February 2019, Macmillan Children's Books
Pages: 480, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy! This has in no way affected my review.
Rating: 3/5 cupcakes

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…
I really wanted to love this. Historical fiction, fantasy elements, FRANCE (I really want to go to France), aristocracy, secrets, court life...what more could you possibly want? I had heard incredible things about this book, it sounded fascinating and that cover it's beautiful)...I was prepared to love it. My expectations were high. However, this book fell quite short of them. I was expecting intrigue, heart-pounding tension, and a spellbinding romance. Although I got moments of that, the majority of this book featured dull characters, a bland plot and insta-love. I wasn't as enchanted by this book as I'd hoped.

Enchantee did start by reeling me into the story. An aspect that was executed perfectly was the atmosphere the author created. I felt as if I was in Paris, navigating the poverty-stricken streets filled with thieves and beggars, and then walking the treacherous, dazzling, magical paths of Versailles. I could feel the heady weight of sorrow and fear clinging to the air, and I could feel the raucous recklessness among the French aristocrats. There were several moments I was so absorbed by the novel, I forgot I was reading. The descriptions of the palace, of the clothing and of the darker side of the Parisian streets were described with such detail that I could easily lose myself in the world.

I also thought the author’s writing style was beautiful. The sentences flowed gracefully into one another. One of the things that often prevent me from loving a book is a wooden, staccato writing style. Luckily, Enchantee was devoid of this. The writing was scrumptious, detailed and lyrical. It made falling into the world that much easier. However, I did get quite frustrated with the French phrases that were on practically every page. Only once I’d finished my e-arc I realised there was a glossary of French terms at the back, which would’ve helped a lot. I knew some of the phrases from the bit of French I know, but the phrases that I didn’t know often pulled me out of the story.

Another aspect that was handled well was the depiction of how addiction can completely change someone and derail them. Camille’s brother becomes addicted to alcohol and gambling, which puts them in a position even worse than they were in before. Camille also gets drawn into the world of addiction thanks to gambling and magicking glamour. The author showed how the characters became more ensnared and entangled, wanting to quit, but never quite being able to. I could see the effects addiction has on an individual and their family with heartbreaking, startling clarity.

Atmosphere, writing and the portrayal of addiction was executed brilliantly. However, there were quite a few things I didn’t like: plot/pacing, characters and romance.

Firstly, the plot and pacing. This book is around 500 pages and it drags. Going into this book, I was expecting thrills, danger, and a plot that has me on the edge of my seat. Instead I got a plot that consists of gambling and romance. It was only when I reached the 70% mark of this book that the plot started going somewhere. There were several times I nearly DNFed this because NOTHING HAPPENED. Literally 80% of this book consisted of Camille gambling and spending time with aristocracy. There were no high stakes and things just happened too easily. There weren’t losses or revelations...not until much later on in the book. Eventually things started getting more interesting as the villain appeared, but even the tension and danger of that was short lived as he was vanquished so easily. I was like...is that it? It was just so completely underwhelming. Due to this book’s length, it really needed a more exciting plot. Reading about Camille working magic and fawning over Lazare wasn’t enough to interest me. Also, the romance takes up a large section of this book too. So just be aware of that if you’re not a fan of heavy romance in your books. I generally love romance taking centre-stage, but not when there’s not enough substance to the romance.

I also found the hot air balloon sub-plot kind of random. After reading the author’s note at the back of the book, I understand that hot air balloons came out round about that time, so that’s why it was included. However, it just felt slightly random and didn’t add all that much to the story.

This leads me onto the second thing: the characters. I need to really like the characters; they need to feel real to me. I didn’t really connect to the characters that much. I started liking them more towards the end, but for the majority of this book I felt quite indifferent to them. Camille is a character that, although didn’t like her a lot, I did respect the lengths she went to and the sacrifices she made in order to save her and her little sister, Sophie. She works hard to make sure they can have security, food and a more comfortable existence. I really admired that about her. Through Camille, the author showed how easy it is to get caught up in glamour and popularity and forget about the essential things, which I thought was an important message to include. Camille also did some stupid things that had me going ???. Like letting really blatant things slip to people when she was in her glamour and directing her attention to them when she was Camille and not her disguise. 🤦🏼‍♀️

There were Sophie, Chandon, Aur
élie, and Lazare as the side characters. They were nice enough but they were quite flat. Again, I didn’t feel anything for them. I liked Lazare, the love interest. He was of Indian descent and challenged the racism that perpetuated the Versailles palace. He had big dreams, and he was caring and respectful. I eventually really grew to like Lazare and thought he was a wonderful love interest. Although I started liking the characters more and not feeling as much apathy towards them, it took me a veeeery long time to get to that point.

Lastly, the romance. It’s insta-love, guys. Camille and Lazare speak, like, one sentence to each other and then she’s thinking about him all the time. Their attraction and longing happened so quickly, it just didn’t feel believable at all. I also get quite frustrated when books go from just meeting to love interests. What happened to being friends first and really knowing the other person? I could see Lazare cares about Camille, but it jut didn’t feel authentic enough, in my personal opinion. At the end of the book, I really liked them together, but there romance just happened way too rapidly.

This wasn’t a bad book. I just felt very underwhelmed, as a lot of the aspects were flat and insubstantial. I just think my expectations were too high, and this book does get good...just at a far later stage than I would’ve liked. A lot of people loved this though, so don’t let me put you off.

I was hoping that Enchantée would be a dazzling, spellbinding read that would sweep me off my feet and deliver me into the jewel-adorned hands of the magical, dangerous, dizzying aristocracy of Versailles. Although there were moments that were akin to this, the majority of this book had me quite bored and waiting for something to happen. Things eventually got better towards the end, but it happened too late for me to like this book as much as I was hoping to.

I give it: 3/5 cupcakes
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