Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)
* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.
Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her sick sister while escaping the clutches of an abusive brother. Relying on her limited knowledge of magic, she transforms herself into a baroness and begins to gamble at Versailles. Quickly, she hones her skills but magic has a cost and soon she discovers leaving Versailles is much harder than it looks.
What I loved the most about this book was how vividly Trelease painted Paris in the 18th century. As Camille transforms, she comes to face the rich who she has despised her entire life. The rich who live in luxury while families like Camille’s waste away. The world building shines through, 18th century Paris with a tinge of magic in its streets: its street fashion, printing system, hot air ballooning, and games.
Camille is a determined and headstrong lead, driven by her situation to make a better life for herself and her sister. I really like her as a lead. She tends to get the better of herself and assumes she knows best for her sister, who rightfully calls her out on it. A terrific sibling dynamic between them.
There are the beginnings of a good discussion with the male love interest who is biracial. (Indian and French) Both India and France see him as an outsider, and there’s a moment where she discusses his identity and how he struggles to find his place. I just wish this was considered more, he was basically a ghost for a good portion of the book.
I did struggle with the length of this book. There’s a lot of moments where you’re just going through it, part build-up as we watch Camille learn the ways of the court, part was just me as reading getting partially bored in some moments. You’re left waiting for something to happen, but it felt like it takes way too long for the actual plot to move on from Camille being introduced into the court. But once it picks up, it gets a lot more exciting, and I really enjoyed it in the end.
Overall, There’s a lot of small tidbits that stuck to me and mixed with the writing and plot and the way the author used real historical events that worked with the plot, it was really great. A lot will be put off by its length, but the world was something else and enjoyable to explore. I actually enjoyed this much more than I had expected.
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Content warning: abuse (physical, emotional, verbal), gambling addiction, alcoholism.