I was into this book right off the bat! It captured my imagination from the first page and held it the entire time. When I finally finished it I was actually sad and now I can’t wait for the sequel, Liberte, to come out!
The story is set at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1798 and spans several months through when the Bastille fell. It follows a young woman whom I believe is about 19 years in age and her dysfunctional family. Her name is Camille and she learned magic from her mother. Like all good magic stories, there are rules and I really like how limited magic is in this world. She can change garbage into gold basically, using items like discarded screws and buttons to change them into money so they can buy food that evening. Another form of magic she can do is called a glamour, where she uses a lively dress and makeup to magically change her appearance. This helps her to fit into the in-crowd at Versailles so she can swindle them at cards, changing the cards to the ones she wants in order to win more money. The cost of magic in this world is blood and sorrow. It takes a horrible toll on the magician’s body and there’s no exception for Camille, but it’s all for her family’s survival, right? That’s the big question.
Camille loves her little sister Sophie more than anything. She is seventeen and talented in fashion. Camille desperately wants to provide for Sophie, not only food but also a safe place to live and opportunity to shine. Her sister makes the most glorious hats that soon become popular at the palace. With the money Camille makes turning cards, Sophie is able to realize her dream of owning her own shop, but can Camille keep her safe? Camille’s brother is a whole ‘nother story. He’s a drunk, abusive, and desperate for his own money because he has wracked up and absorbent amount of debt playing cards. He tries to squeeze his sisters for all they have to perpetuate his sick habit, causing the sisters to flee in the night to a new home when they are able. But will their brother find them again? Paris is a big city, but not that big.
On top of all the scandal and magic of Versailles, Camille meets new friends, villians, and of course a love interest. This love interest brings into her life the daring adventure of hot air balloons which gave the story a fun, whimsical touch.
What I really loved about this book is that it was just enough. I didn’t feel like the paragraphs dragged on with minute details about Paris in 1798. It didn’t beat me to death with its history. It gave just enough to help me imagine it and pique my interest in that time. It mentioned real people during that time, but also didn’t overload the story with them causing me to ask “Is this even plausible that THAT MANY historically famous people’s paths would cross that frequently like this?” The history set the scene and the story did the rest. It was delightful!
And I have to comment on the cover design. There are two different types. One is illustrated and reminds me a bit of “The Night Circus”. It’s light and whimsical and fun. The other ones, the one that I purchased, uses a photograph of a girl with brilliant red hair and bright colors and it really modernized the story and caught my attention with its bright colors. I loved it! The sequel’s cover has not let me down either.
I have seen that it says this is a teen/young adult story. I think it’s labeled this because of the age of the main character and the element of magic, but it didn’t feel teeny to me. I’m 32-years-old and I enjoyed every bit of it and related to some of the main character’s struggles even now. If you’re a fan of historical fiction with elements of magic and romance, then this is the book for you! I know that sounds like a narrow group of people, but I really think it appeals to a lot. Enjoy! I’m holding my breath until the sequel comes out!