Enchantée by Gita Trelease


cover152585-mediumEnchantée
by Gita Trelease

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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 was very much looking forward to reading this book and although overall I enjoyed the story it wasn’t quite the book I had hoped for.

Trelease’s writing is very beautiful and detailed, and perfectly evoked the opulence of Versailles as well as the poverty of the home Camille starts out in. Camille’s family history set up the main plot of the book in an interesting effective way- I really felt like I could understand how desperate they were for money after the death of their parents and I was immediately on Camille’s side, urging her and her sister Sophie to escape from their violent, drug, gambling addicted brother Alain.

The romance between Camille and Lazare was also wonderful and I had butterflies reading about their fledgling relationship and the will they/won’t they flirting. The storyline about Lazare’s balloon was interesting, if a little drawn out in places and distracting from the main story at times. The scenes with the actual balloon flights added some much needed adventure to the book and I enjoyed stepping in Camille’s shoes and imagining how incredible it would feel to be flying at this point in history where it was almost unheard of.

Unfortunately, I found the scenes in Versailles failed to keep my attention for the most part. I found the magic system one of the most interesting parts of the story to begin with, but it felt to me as if it was almost never used. All Camille used it for was to change her appearance, go to the palace and win some card games. It seemed almost pointless to have included the magic within the book as she could equally have just been a naturally skilled gambler. I also felt that it was strange of Camille as a character to choose gambling when she was so against her brother Alain’s habit. I think it would have been more true to her as a character to have her find cleverer ways to use magic to gain power and money.

Overall, I enjoyed this story, particularly the relationship between Camille and Lazare. I think the pacing of the book is very slow at times and would have benefited from much less time at the card tables.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to Macmillan and My Kinda Book for providing an uncorrected proof copy.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

If you are remotely interested in the world of YA fiction you can’t have missed the hype surrounding Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood Bone. For this reason, I was thrilled when My Kinda Book offered to send me an ARC. My first reaction was, wow, that’s a big book. It’s possibly the longest YA book I’ve ever seen at a mighty 600 pages but trust me when I say there is no fat to this book. Every word is vital to the story. It’s an intricate, beautifully woven story and the parallels it draws between the society of Orisha and our own society is stark and important.

Children of Blood and Bone opens in an Orisha devoid of magic where once it was rich. Different majis had different powers; some were burners, others were reapers controlling death alongside healers and tiders who could control the waves. Zelie, our heroine and the daughter of a reaper, has become used to life without magic, without her mother and with the ever present danger of a monarchy hell bent on eradicationg magic forever shadowing her life. Zelie has one chance to bring back magic and with the help of her brother and a rogue princess she embarks on an epic journey to acheive her goal, whilst struggling to contain her powers and her feelings for an enemy.

It’s not often that a book can be so hyped and yet live up to that reputation. This book is rich with mythology and world building and Adeyemi has masterfully crafted her characters to the point where I felt bereft when I finished reading because I missed them. The story switched from the point of view of each of the four main characters and this was so effective because it made me keep switching my point of view. At times I could totally see the justification for wanting to take away magic and then would come a Zelie chapter and I’d be right back to wanting to kick the monarchy’s butt.

Zelie as a heroine is so inspirational. She’s a complete bad ass but also massively flawed. She makes a lot of mistakes but the very core of her is good. Her moral compass is unwavering and her courage is unmatched.

Aside from the epic action and adventure of the book, I really enjoyed the romance aspects. It was a slow burner and completely additional to the plot so not focused on too heavily. It was a nice light relief and added another facet to the characters.

Children of Blood and Bone is an incredible piece of fantasy fiction and it was a wonderful escapism for me to disappear to Orisha on my lunch break or before I went to sleep each night. However, it also focuses on issues that are at the forefront of our society, heavily featuring racially-charged violence and injustice. It’s incredible to me that this book can be such an entertaining fantasy story whilst also being so powerful in conveying important messages that we can and should apply to our own lives.

As if by the end of the book we didn’t already know that Adeymi is a master storyteller, I think the cliffhanger she leaves us on makes it abundently clear. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has read this book isn’t waiting with bated breath for the next installment in the series.

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a soft spot for middle grade fiction because it’s usually so magical and enthralling (I suppose it has to be to keep the attention of 9-12 year olds!)

As soon as I saw the front cover for Nevermoor I knew I had to read it. Something about that tiny dark haired girl whooshing into adventure surrounded by sparkles and strange objects just called to me. It’s worth mentioning here that the cover hidden underneath the dust jacket is just as beautiful and perfectly encapsulates the feel of the story.

Inevitably, and admittedly quite unfairly, I tend to measure each middle grade book against the impossible measuring stick of Harry Potter. Does the story grip me in the same way? Are the characters as life like and not written in a condescending way? Do I feel part of the magic?

This book at least lends itself to comparison with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire fairly easily. Although the stories are not similar at all both feature a young child from a fairly rubbish upbringing who have been rescued by a mysterious, magical entity and need to take part in various trials whilst a shadowy villain lurks in the background.

Often, books come up short but in this instance I know that if I had read this as a child it would have been as beloved by me as Harry Potter was. From the instance I was introduced to her I loved Morrigan Crow and her resigned reactions to the way people treated her. I so badly wanted her to find the family and friends she yearned for and loved that even though she was the heroine of this book, still nothing was simple for her.

My absolute favourite character though, was Jupiter North. I loved his eccentricities, his warm heart and humour. He just seems the most perfect guardian to whisk you away on a magical adventure.

At 384 pages Nevermoor is a relatively long book for its genre, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re reading. The book is split into good length chapters (which will come in handy when I come to read it to my daughter at bedtime when she’s old enough) and the way the narrative is built means the story comes in peaks and troughs. Morrigan prepares for a trial, Morrigan does the trial and some action takes place, Morrigan is back having a rest and preparing for the next trial. It works well, and you get a lovely sense of the life she is building in Nevermoor around the main plot of the book.

The ending of the book perfectly sets you up for the next one in the series. Enough loose ends are tied up to leave you satisfied whilst still leaving you wanting a lot more. I cannot wait to read the next instalment of Morrigan Crow’s adventures.
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Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a long time fan of Scarlett Thomas’ adult fiction I was positively seething with jealousy when my niece came home from school earlier this year proudly clutching a copy of Dragons Green and announced that the author had visited her class earlier that day.

I was eager to get reading myself, although slightly apprehensive. Scarlett Thomas’ usual writing style is highly imaginative (good for children’s fiction) but also highly intellectual (possibly problematic for children’s fiction). I think it’s fair to say that a good adult fiction writer may not turn out to be a good children’s fiction writer and I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Thankfully, book one in the WorldQuake series was everything I wanted it to be and more. From the first page the magic practically crackled off the page. It took me back to being 9 years old and settling down to read the first Harry Potter book. Even the names of the characters in Dragon’s Green gave me a lovely, warm feeling because they are just so storybook perfect. Real names for people who seem like they’d be off on lots of adventures.

The plot, though not completely original, is well structured and the pace of the story moves along well, something which is vital in a children’s book if you’re going to keep the little monsters engaged. I especially liked the innocence of the children in this story. They’re happy to be kids and are in no hurry to grow up, but they’re also hungry for a good old fashioned adventure. As a parent, s is becoming more and more important to me. A book which can inspire children to be brave, clever, kind and to seek adventure is a powerful, special thing.

My favourite part of story was Effie’s delightful encounter with the dragon and I loved the whole idea of being “the last reader” of a book.

The best thing I can say about this book is it is just as entertaining for adults to read as it is for children. I love that I can discuss my favourite parts with my niece and and I know that one day I will enjoy tucking my daughter into bed and sharing a few chapters a night with her. And by then we’ll have more WorldQuake stories to get through!
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