I received a copy from Netgalley.
I love a bit of French history, after obsessively watching three seasons of Versailles, and the recent BBC adaption of Les Mis, this book was pretty much a must have for me. It did take a long time for me to get through it, but I did really enjoy it.
The unique mix of French history and magic mixed together in a fascinating way I’ve never seen done before. And it was completely gripping. The heroine Camille lives with her frail sister Sophie, and her asshole of a brother Alain. Their parents have died and the family are struggling to make ends meet in 18th Century Paris. The conditions of the area they live in is harsh, Sophie designs luxurious hats at a specialty shop through struggling with her health, while the brother is a gambler and a drunk, also nasty and violent and a thief. He has a nasty habit of stealing what little funds the sisters can scrape together and using for himself, despite the fact they are on the verge of eviction if they can’t pay their overdue rent ASAP.
The form of magic is described as dark and petty, magicians in this book have a bad rep and their type of magic in the day and age now is frowned up on and kept hidden by those who could do it. Camille’s mother could practise and she taught Camille. Though there are consequences to using magic – blood must be spilled and it has serious long term effects on the wielder’s physical body and health.
When Alain steels the money Sophie and Camille have put together for their rent, out of desperation Camille turns to some dark “La Magie ordinaire” using a blood work spell to enchant an old gown and transform herself into a beautiful baroness. She can turn card tricks and use la magie to turn the cards to her advantage, therefore earning enough money for her and Sophie to live comfortably. So heads off to Versailles to charm the court and get into the gambling halls.
Of course it’s not as easy as it sounds. She finds herself drawn into the glamorous and dangerous world of court gossip, gambling and politics. And it’s not long before someone is on to her secret. It’s tough to know who to trust and Camille must keep her wits about her before her charade comes tumbling down.
In her regular life an accident with a carriage leads Camille to a group of scientist boys her age who are trying to build a hot air balloon. She becomes entranced in the group and the balloon itself, one of the charming boys in particular – who also turns up in her new group of friends at Versailles.
I loved Camille as a heroine. She was strong, quick witted and determined. The book was brilliantly written, plenty of intrigue and increasing angst and worry as the plot took more dramatic turns, the revolution is starting to happen, the poor are uprising and the streets are dangerous. The atmosphere was tense and nail biting in some situations and dramatic without being over the top.
And there was a delightful barely there romance where you just want to shout and Camille and the boy involved “JUST KISS ALREADY!!” An interesting mix of characters as well, some strong friendships developed, and some nasty villains. This book had everything I look for in an epic fantasy and I loved all of it.
This was a brilliant book and I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for approving my request to view the title.