Monday, 3 August 2015

Review: Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson

Publication Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: St Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books
Length: 336 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King's opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.
Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.
Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis's love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.

I love a well written historical novel that allows me to immerse myself in another country or time, but sadly they can often be a little bit hit and miss with historical accuracy, language or detailing, so I’m always hesitant when starting a new historical novel as to what I might actually get. Luckily ‘Enchantress of Paris’ was one of those rare, stunningly written and researched novels that swept me up and away into the early days of the court of the Sun King – Louis XIV.

This novel was a sumptuous treat, offering a peep hole into France in the mid-1600s. The food, the balls, the clothes, the revelry and scandal – it’s all there, beautifully chronicled. It’s a rich and enthralling narrative led by a fantastic heroine. Marie was headstrong and wilful, determined and clever. I loved watching her transformation from the start, watching her learn the power plays and games and begin to play on her own terms. Her and her sisters were so refreshingly outrageous, so determined to be themselves in a time when that was frowned upon, and it was a delight to read. What made it even more fantastic was reading the author’s note at the end and realising just how much historical fact has been blended seamlessly in and how much of the novel is real. Nothing will ever be perfectly accurate, but this novel did an incredible job of pulling so many factual historical sources and turning them into a truly incredible story.

All of the characters were brilliantly constructed, but it is truly Marie who gives the story heart and soul. I tore through the novel and loved immersing myself in another period of French history that I was sorely ignorant of. It’s a wonderful novel to add to my collection of historical fiction that is slowly filling in my gaps of French history, and is definitely my favourite to date.

The writing is beautiful, the setting superb and as I’ve said, the characters wonderfully real and flawed. It was the kind of novel I dream of, one to sink into and enjoy. To be swept away by and to fall in in love with.

My only complaints would be the sheer volume of titles and names that you need to keep up with – who is related, who is married, who is so and so’s mistress. There’s a handy list to keep you up to date of who’s who right at the start of the novel which should alleviate the problem, but alas because I was reading it on my kindle, trying to shuffle back and forth between list and book became increasingly frustrating. Book readers won’t have such limitations though, and I’ looking forward to going back and reading this one again in book form and thoroughly enjoying it. And on a slightly more picky note the descriptions of some parts of Lyon felt a little off. Perhaps it was me simply being confused, but some of the mapping of the city felt a little off compared to the city I know. Something that were I not living here I wouldn’t have picked up on at all.

If you love historical novels, or fancy a well informed and sumptuous peek at a fascinating period in French history, this is a must read. It dances the line between factual and fictional perfectly giving the perfect blend of realism and compelling story that will sweep you away. Marci is definitely an author that I’m going to watch, and I’m looking forward to catching up on her first novel ‘Girl on the Golden Coin’.

6 comments:

  1. Great review! I'd love to read this :)

    Assia | www.assiashahin.com

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    1. It's out tomorrow and so so good! I really hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for reading.

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  2. Oooh *goes off to add to TBR* Quite a while ago I went through a big historical reading binge and I've been looking for some more good historical's to check out, so thanks, haha :D Lovely review!

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    1. It's really good, I loved it! If you're after more historical fiction I'd also recommend anything by Deanna Raybourn, but particularly her Lady Julia Grey series (the first one is Silent in the Grave) and also The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak. I'd love to hear what you think of any of them and I hope you enjoy!

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  3. I've just read and reviewed this title too, as you know, and I agree with what you've said about it, it's a wonderful and rich tale about a period of time I'm not familiar with myself. It's also so good to meet another blogger who loves historical fiction as much as I do, it seems we are few and far between sometimes xx

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    1. There definitely aren't many of us! Other historical titles to keep an eye out for if you haven't already read them are 'The Winter Palace' by Eva Stachniak, and anything by Deanna Rayburn. Those are definite favourites and Enchantress is going right up there with them. I cannot wait to get stuck into Marci's first novel now!
      Thank you so much for reading and I'm so glad you loved it too!

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