Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
So first of all, a confession. I am obsessed with the French Revolution. I collect books about this period of history including some really rare out of print French books. I even have a book written by Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser printed in the 1800s. I say this not to boast, but to highlight how much of a big deal this period is to me.
When I heard a YA novel was being written about the court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette I was beside myself with anticipation. To be approved for an ARC of this was really exciting.
This novel follows Camille, a young woman living in 18th century Paris. She lives with her awful drunkard brother Alain, and her younger sister Sophie. In this version of Paris, magic exists and Sophie has the ability to ‘change’ small items such as nails into coins although the effect is not permanent. She struggles to earn enough money to pay the rent and in desperation turns to another form of magic and becomes the Baroness de la Fontaine, and begins gambling at Versailles.
Along the way Camille meets an interesting cast of characters including the charming Lazare, as she tries to juggle her life as a courtier and that of a working class woman trying to forge her own path. The romance in this book is really sweet and the novel also touches sensitively on issues such as the identity struggles of being mixed race and wealth inequality. I was immersed in both the glamour of Versailles, and its less salubrious underbelly as well as the realities of 18th century Paris.
My only real criticisms were this book falls into the all too prevalent trope of peppering the text with random French phrases. Why authors do this I do not know, I don’t know of a single person who enjoys it. Camille’s sister Sophie was meh and a bit of a drip and I really didn’t care about her story. The novel also makes the events of the revolution all a bit lovely and idealistic which jars a bit when you consider the real horrors. It was called The Terror for a reason.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The glamour and seediness of the court of Versailles was captured well, and there were some nice cameos from well known persons of the time. The conflict between rich and poor was explored and the magic angle added something a bit different and fun. I’ll be happy to add this book to my collection.