‘Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries – and magicians…
When seventeen-year-old Camille is left orphaned, she has 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 Versaille, 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…’
As part of the Enchantée blog tour, today I have an extract from this magical YA novel and a review to share! Read on for the first chapter of Enchantée!
Yves Rencourt, the chandler’s apprentice, had lost his wig.
After the last customer left the shop, he searched through baskets of curling wicks and blocks of beeswax and teetering stacks of bills. Rien. It was nowhere to be found. And he needed the wig for tonight: he alone was to deliver candles for the Comte d’Astignac’s party, which would last until the sun came up. This was Yves’s chance to be noticed. To rise. And he didn’t want to show up wearing his own hair, looking ridiculous. He had to look promising. Like someone who could be Somebody.
At least his coat was good, he thought, as he lifted the dove-grey silk from its hook and shrugged it on. And voilà – there the damned wig was, its long white hair tied back with a black satin bow. He pulled the wig on and cocked an admiring eyebrow at his reflection in the window: he was no longer a tradesman’s apprentice. He was absolument parfait.
Into a canvas satchel he tucked his most precious candles, the ones he’d tinted the hazy apricots and violets of dawn. All he needed now was money for the carriage. From under the counter he heaved up the strongbox and lifted its lid to reveal a shining pile of coins: rivulets of gold louis and livres and tiny sous. Candles were good business. No matter how little bread there was, how few people bought snuffboxes or plumed hats, they all needed light. In the back, Maître Orland kept the cheap tallow candles that reeked of hooves. They sold more of those every day. But in the front of the shop, nestled in boxes and dangling from their wicks, were Yves’s own lovelies: wax candles, their colours like enchantments. A rose pink that made old women seem young; a watery grey that reminded him of the ocean. And one day soon – he hoped – he’d make candles for the queen.
For, like himself, Marie Antoinette loved extraordinary things. Yves would make candles to suit her every fancy, candles she’d never even dreamed of. He’d be asked to make thousands because, in the endless rooms and halls of Versailles, candles were never lit twice.
From his coat pocket he pulled a leather purse and began to flick livres into the bag. Clink, clink, clink. But one coin made him pause. It was a louis d’or, seemingly no different from the others. Yet to someone who handled candles, always checking the soft wax for imperfections, it felt off. Holding it to the fading afternoon light, he saw nothing wrong. He put the gold coin between his teeth and bit it. It was as hard as any other. And yet. He found another louis and held one in each hand, weighing them. He closed his eyes. Yes – the one in his right hand was lighter. Still, who but a true craftsman such as himself would notice? He was about toss it back in the box when it twitched.
The louis d’or was moving.
Yves yelped and Aung it on to the counter. The coin spun in a tight circle and dropped flat. As it lay there, its edges began to ripple, like beeswax in a flame.
‘Mon Dieu,’ he muttered. What in God’s name was happening?
The louis twisted upon itself and flipped over. The king’s face with its curved nose had vanished, the familiar crown and shield too. And as Yves stared, the coin lost its roundness, thinning and separating until it looked like a bent harness buckle. He reached out a tentative finger to touch it.
It was a bent harness buckle.
With a cry, he reached for the strongbox. Mixed in with the coins was an ugly tin button, dented on one side, and a crooked piece of type, a letter Q. Worthless scraps of metal.
He remembered her exactly. He’d even flirted with her. Red hair, freckles across her sharp cheekbones. Hungry. Not that that excused it. How she’d done it he had no idea – but what a fool he was to take a gold louis from a girl in a threadbare cloak. If he hadn’t been dreaming of the figure he’d cut at the comte’s house, he would have thought twice. Idiot! Maître Orland was going to kill him.
He wrenched open the door and yelled into the crowded street.
‘Help! Police! We’ve been robbed!’
Enchantée is a wonderful novel that explores the distance between the world of the poor and that of the rich at the eve of the French Revolution, the world that Camille lives in one of an alternative history, for she and others are able to employ different forms of magic to make changes to the world around them to give themselves an advantage where they must. Camille is primarily not one of those who uses this ability frivolously, especially as it comes at a cost, the magic she has learnt from her late mother one that she is reluctant to use and initially not terribly secure in wielding, her main use of it to temporarily transform pieces of scrap metal into enough coins to feed her family. It’s when she discovers other magics left behind by her mother that she realises the extent of what she could do and begins to use it – a glamoire – to enter the world of the aristocracy.
The thing I loved most about Enchantée was its magic system – or, more accurately, what was required of a person t make the magic work. Lots of novels that have characters exploiting magic have them doing so without showing any significant or long-lasting consequences of using their power, and it was interesting to see the possible side-effects of magic use explored in Camille’s story. This was one of many elements that was effective in conveying all that Camille is willing to do and sacrifice for her family, and the toll it takes on her both physically and on her perception of the world (and of herself and those around her) was one of the most poignant facets of the narrative. When she begins to use magic, she does so as a means to an end, but as she becomes accustomed to it? I doubt it is unintentional that magic and gambling are presented side by side.
Camille’s struggle with her brother to protect herself and Sophie, as well as to protect him from himself, is another of the threads of the story that works well to highlight just what addiction can and will do to people, and I found it interesting that this was also juxtaposed with her having to embrace a dangerous and addictive magic, since the impact that the alcohol has on Alain and the effect of prolonged magic use turn out to be rather similar. Just as Alain may have started out using alcohol to forget and to escape the world, Camille at first resists and then embraces the magic regardless of its consequences, each of them witnessing their destructive effects and increasingly unable to draw away. Her struggle may be presented as one of necessity, yet there are undeniably moments when she is reluctant to stop. Alain is a detestable character in his actions, but both he and his sister end up embracing their escapist methods of choice.
Lazare’s story and place in society is another of the effective elements of the story. Of mixed-race heritage, the majority of the aristocracy of France refuse to accept him as one of them and see past their racism, leaving him adrift and unable to feel secure in the world, walking among people who might have to acknowledge him because of his family, but then only make derogatory comments about having to acknowledge him at all. If one of the book’s themes is that of being trapped between worlds, Lazare’s narrative is surely one of those most sympathetic.
Trelease’s writing is truly beautiful and I most enjoyed the passages involving the glamoire and the dress. For those – like me – who need a little help understanding the French included in the novel, there is a helpful list of translations at the back of the book!
Enchantée was released in the UK on the 21st of February from Pan Macmillan and is available in paperback in bookstores now! Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the gifted ARC and inviting me to be part of this blog tour!