Paris is a labryinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t... When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome younge inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible. But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose―love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic―before Paris burns.
What worked: Fascinating glimpse into 1789 Paris right before the French Revolution. There's magic at the court, but using it comes with a cost. I loved the intrigue of 1789 Paris in the glittering courts of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Also the idea that not only the aristocrats, but Versailles used magic adds to the story.
Camille was a product of her time. Only she had magic to help her rise from the intense poverty that was around her. This didn't stop her from being abused by her older brother. She fights back in the only way she can, by using her ability to use magic. I liked how this ability doesn't come easy to her. The dark element of magic at first repulses her, but she learns to rely on it. She's swept up with the glamour of the court. Her younger sister isn't in the background, but also gets caught up in Camille's lies and attempts to better themselves.
There's also romance in the court and outside. Camille finds herself falling in love with Lazare, who has his own secrets. What's hard for Camille is she's not sure if Lazare will really like her if he knows she's been disguising herself at the court. Her struggles and conflict are shown not only at home, but at Versailles. She finds that she's not the only one using magic and fears being exposed. The king has outlawed magic and the penalty is death.
The addition of the balloons is intriguing too. At this time, balloons were all the rage in Paris. I really liked how the author was able to use this historical fact, along with magic.
Engaging tale of a young girl who uses magic to transform herself into an aristocrat, at first to take back from them, but later falls under the charm of Versailles. Only later does she find that maybe magic isn't enough, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
2. Magic among the nobels at Versailles right before the French Revolution