REVIEW: Enchantée by Gita Trelease | BLOG TOUR

Enchanted REview -- The Riverside Library

 

Welcome to my stop on the Enchantée blog tour! Enchantée was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, and when I discovered it back in October of last year, I couldn’t stop telling everyone about this debut due for publication in Feb. I was extremely lucky to receive an advanced reader’s copy from Pan Macmillan Australia, and now I get to tell you everything I thought of this magical, fantastical, historical book. I’ve tried to keep it spoiler free, but as always, if you’re spoiler sensitive, proceed with caution.

Set both in the rich and opulent court of Versailles, and hunger ridden streets of Paris in 1789, Enchantée follows Camille as she is forced to risk everything to save her family. Just a little trigger warning: this book includes one scene of domestic violence and a lot of gambling.

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These Things I Loved:

My returning readers will know that I am obsessed with three things: magic, books and France (also cheese and a number of other things, but we’re not going to get into that). Enchantée combines all three of those obsessions and mixes it with an exploration of the costs of freedom, the importance of fighting for what you believe in, and characters who sometimes survive off little more than hope. Of course I was hyped for this, it sounds perfect to me.

Magic

The magic system in this book is so unique (I feel like I say that about every book that I review, but seeing as I only tend to review books I like and I really like books with unique magic systems, you’ll read this a lot). I’m not sure what I was expecting from the blurb, but I can say I wasn’t expecting what we got. The magic in this book isn’t an in-your-face style of magic, there’s no spellcasting or wand fights, it’s much subtler, yet it is intrinsically tied to the plot. Though I loved many things about the magic system, my favourite (by far) was the limitations that controlled it. In my eyes, a limited magic system is a good magic system. In Enchantée, magic cannot fix everything, in fact, instead of serving as a solution to problems, it merely acts to further complicate the situation. This increases the number of sacrifices that our protagonist, Camille, makes for her family and also adds to some of the themes that the book explores – but more on that later. First, Camille.

Camille

I am a sucker for any character willing to make sacrifices for their family, this means I am a complete sucker for Camille. She was, perhaps, my favourite character in this book, though I did really like Lazare. At some points, I wished Camille had better communication skills, but every character has their flaws. She more than made up for them with her selflessness, and her bravery. I also liked how her actions really brought up some interesting questions tied to the theme (again, more on that later).

History

Another thing that I really enjoyed in Enchantée was the history. Now, I’m no history buff, so I’m not going to claim to be an expert, (in fact, if I’m being honest, my French history knowledge is entirely from Les Misérables, the second book in the Outlander series and one crash course video I watched on YouTube when I was seventeen) but I did appreciate the historical component of this novel. Enchantée is actually the first YA historical novel I’ve ever read, and I found the world to be fully immersive. I loved the juxtaposition of the opulence of Versailles and the poverty in some parts of Paris. I enjoyed seeing the differences in class of 18thcentury France, especially when, in Paris, the different classes lived so close to one another.

I Wish There Was More of...

I wish there had been more of the villain in this novel. When the villain was present in the book, they were perfectly creepy, and I just wanted more of that. I understand that the presence of the villain was always there, that they were working their master plan the whole time and our protagonist wasn’t particularly involved in it, and I also understand how that even ties into the themes that the book explores – for, if Camille wasn’t so addicted to her life in Versailles, perhaps she would have noticed the villain’s master plan a little earlier, but I just wish the villain had more page time. I could have done with more creepiness (this is a very odd thing to wish for, I know).

My Favourite Thing

Enchantée was nearly exactly what I was expecting, but to my delight, there were themes that took me by surprise. Throughout the book, Camille struggles to leave the life she creates in glitzy Versailles and return to her reality. Gambling is a massive feature of the court, and this struggle that Camille goes through regarding when to leave Versailles really enforces that interesting topic. Whether intended or not, Enchantée really does bring up some interesting questions about gambling and addiction. Rather than jumping into the head of an established addict we see it in a much more subtle and relatable way through Camille and many other characters, including her brother and her friends. Though Enchantée is a YA historical fantasy, there are definitely deeper underlying messages in it, making it perfect for both those who want to be entertained, and those who want something a little more complex.

All in all, Enchantée was worth all of my excitement for it. I loved when the words on the page faded away and opened the doors to the streets of Paris, the top of the Notre Dame, the tempting tables of the Palais-Royal and the superficial perfection of Versailles. I definitely recommend picking up Enchantée and delving into this world. Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for gifting me with a copy of Enchantée for review.

 

AUS Cover

Enchantee Aus/UK cover -- The Riverside Library

US Cover

Enchantee US cover -- The Riverside Library


BOOK DETAILS

TITLE: Enchantée

AUTHOR: Gita Trelease

PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan/Macmillan Children’s Books

AUS PUBLICATION DATE: 26/02/2019

RRP: AU$16.99

BLURB:

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries – and magicians . . .

When smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille is left to provide for her frail sister and her volatile brother. In desperation, she survives by using the petty magic she learnt from her mother. But when her brother disappears Camille decides to pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and presents herself at the court of Versailles, where she soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying life of riches, finery and suitors. But Camille’s resentment of the rich is at odds with the allure of their glamour and excess, and she soon discovers that she’s not the only one leading a double life . . .

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ENCHANTÉE REVIEW -- The Riverside Library

Enchantee Review -- The Riverside Library

Should You Read Outlander? Yes, yes you should – and here’s why.

You Need to Read Outlander -- The Riverside Library

If you’ve never heard of Outlander, then chances are you’ve been living under a more colossal rock than me, and that’s saying something – my friends call me Patrick Star. I discovered Outlander thanks to the TV show’s theme song. Weird, I know, but let me explain. I was twenty minutes deep into pointless Buzzfeed quizzes and articles when I stumbled across it. I paused my thousandth listen through of Hamilton: An American Musical to press play, and boy oh boy! Is that song something or what? I grew up listening to bagpipes likely more often than your average Sassenach (mainly because my family could never pull away from their Scottish roots), and the sound always comes with a heart-crushing wave of nostalgia. I knew in that moment, I had to watch the show – but then, to my delight, I discovered that they were books! I think I melted.

Plot

Outlander follows Claire, a WWII nurse transported back in time to 1746 Scotland, and documents her trying times as she tries to find her way back home (you can find the full blurb at the end of the review).

My Reading Experience

The Outlander series could in no way, ever be described as a quick, light read. As of 2018, the shortest of all eight books is the first, Outlander, coming in at a whopping 627 pages (standard paperback). It’s a wonder then, how I managed to read the first five in a matter of weeks. But I was hooked, and when I am that entranced in something, I devour it, without coming up for air. I was lucky that the novels were available in my library’s eBook collection because I definitely could not fit them in my suitcase.

What I Liked

As always, I’m going to pick out two of the top things I liked in Outlander, even though there were many, many more than that.

Main Characters

Right off the bat, I loved Claire’s voice. Though I found the opening to Outlander slightly slow, it was the way that Gabaldon wrote Claire that had me reading page after page after page. She’s smart, strong, and still traditionally feminine (that’s a rare combination in a book, for some reason, a lot of characters can’t seem to be strong and feminine). As a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), I loved reading the love and fascination that Claire has for science, her dedication to healing and to botany made me adore her even more. Though Claire definitely had her damsel in distress moments (more on that later), she didn’t sit around and wait for a man to walk in and change her life, she took charge, forged herself a career and did everything in her power to return home.

There’s no way I can write a review on Outlander and not mention Jamie Fraser. The thing that endlessly fascinates me about Jamie is the constant tension of beliefs he holds – on one hand, he’s a very forward-thinking, almost modern man, he takes Claire’s 1940’s quirks in stride and never forces an explanation from her, but on the other hand, he’s aware of the cultural expectations of him. He can’t ignore them, and there are some things though wrong to a modern audience, that sound quite fine to Jamie. That internal tension was one of my favourite aspects of his character – of course, he’s also got a few other things going for him. Y’know, just a few. He’s smart and kind, and loving, he’s devoted and funny, and I hear he’s quite a strapping lad. 

Humour and Heartbreak

Humour and heartbreak is my universal scale of a books goodness (yes, I’m aware that makes little sense, let’s roll with it). If it makes me laugh and breaks my heart then its done its job. Outlander succeeded in making me laugh, but more than that, it also succeeded in destroying my heart and leaving me a sobbing at 2 am when I should have been asleep. It also managed to evoke a plethora of other emotions I never knew a book other than Harry Potter could achieve. Outlander gets five out of five on the humour and heartbreak front.

What I Didn’t Like

Of course, I had to pick out a few things I didn’t like – after all, nothing is perfect. However close the Fraser’s might be.

Some Characters

This is nothing bad on the writing or the story, in fact, it’s more a good point than it is a bad point, because I don’t think I’ve hated fictional characters with more vehemence (maybe with the exception of Dolores Umbridge) than I hate both Jack Randall and Laoghaire McKenzie (and in later books, Stephen Bonnet). It’s a feat to write characters that well fleshed out and absolutely horrid to inspire hate (especially from me) but my word, my blood boils when those characters are in the books. I tossed up between putting these characters in the What I Liked part of this review, but ultimately, I really didn’t like them. 

Some of Claire’s Decision Making

As much as I loved Claire’s character and her wits, I have to say, she made some very questionable decisions. Some of which made me want to throw the book across the room and scream. There are some moments that have bad idea written all over them, and yet Claire is there in the middle of it. Claire is without a doubt, a strong heroine, but she is also a damsel in distress (granted that in some of the situations Claire finds herself in, anyone would probably need someone to come in and save them). 

Changing POV in later books

This is more a personal quirk than anything, I’m not a fan of multiple POVs, so I didn’t love that in later books. Having said that, I definitely enjoyed the addition of Jamie’s POV. I understand why all the additional POVs were introduced, but I still felt much more connected to Jamie and Claire than to any of the other narrators.  

My Favourite Thing

I usually struggle to find a favourite thing about a book, but despite Outlander containing so many elements that I absolutely adored, there was one that definitely stood out. You can probably tell from my review already, from the humour and heartbreak, to the vehement hate for some characters – Outlander is an incredibly immersive read. Just like the standing stones at Craig na Dun, Outlander sucks you in and plunges you right into the wilds of Scotland in the 1700s. It’s almost impossible to tear yourself from the world once it’s got its claws into you, and despite its incredible length, the book passes in what seems like the blink of an eye, because it acts as a time warp – you start it at 7pm one night and finish it three days later realising that you probably should eat, sleep and shower (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration). I love Outlander dearly for this, I know that whenever I need to escape from my day-to-day reality, Jamie Fraser is waiting for me in Scotland, almost three-hundred years ago, and all I need to do is visit Craig na Dun open the book.

Star Rating

Outlander is a true binge-worthy series, and if you’re wondering whether you should take the plunge or not, my answer is yes. Definitely yes. Unsurprisingly, I gave Outlander 5 out of 5 stars.

Blurb: 

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

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