Secrets, treacherous nobles, street riots, wily enchantresses, and self-appointed travel companions: Lilac, a Breton princess at the height of the French Renaissance, is about to learn that if you want something done, you’ve got to ditch your bling and get your hands a little dirty.
Disenchanted by Brianna Sugalski is a bold combination of history and fiction, fact and fantastical. As if the upheaval of the French Revolution weren’t already enough to ramp up the tension in any story, the addition of magic and our heroine’s quest to save herself makes for a thrilling adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Having spent a decent portion of her childhood as a virtual prisoner in her ancestral castle thanks to the revelation made the night before her tenth birthday, it’s pretty understandable that, at first, Lilac comes across as naive and somewhat bullheaded. Growing up sheltered yet surrounded by political intrigue and privilege will do that to a girl. But, Sugalski manages to supplement her iron will with a sense of underlying maturity, which makes her decision to go it alone and solve her problems for herself seem as natural to her character as getting dressed in the morning. It’s a combination that few authors can really nail down, and puts a whole new spin on the vague concept of the strong female lead, but for this story at least, it works.
One thing I will say was refreshing for me was that Lilac’s love interest wasn’t a Prince Charming by any means. Yes, Garin makes it clear that he committed so many atrocious acts because he was cursed, and he was remorseful, but he still brought a healthy dose of reality to a book that easily could have fallen victim to the fairy tale formula: beautiful yet naive princess meets dashing and chivalrous prince. Their noble intentions and good hearts vanquish the monsters and break the curse…blah blah blah. Instead, Sugalski presents Lilac with a character she could have detested, and in a way, that makes Garin’s blunt and sardonic nature that much more endearing for readers. There’s the kind of passion that only comes from two people prone to sticking to their guns, no matter the opponent, and it leads to some interesting, and sometimes explosive exchanges between these two dynamic characters. Disenchanted may be based off of the same notions of magic, royal drama, and romance, but make no mistake―this is no rose-tinted fairy tale.
While some readers may be wary of blending something so historically significant as the French Revolution with magic and fantasy, I thought there was a healthy disconnect between the two that helped keep things in perspective throughout the book. While you’re being led through the forest of Brocéliande, home of the Darklings, past Fae territory, and skirting around a vampire coven, the tumultuous atmosphere of the average towns of the time really aren’t first and foremost in your thoughts. But, Sugalski makes sure to include them, even if only on the periphery, and draws a powerful comparison between the human monsters and the mythical ones.
Thankfully, Sugalski won’t be leaving us hanging in this world she’s only just begun to introduce her readers to. With a sequel in the works, Disenchanted does just what the first book of any series should do: hurtles us into the author’s world, engages us with its characters, starts us off on a journey, and leaves us hanging on the edge of a cliff. While the ending feels somewhat rushed, it’s nice to know that it’s not really the end, but a brief stopping point on the way to bigger, nastier, and far more difficult things to come.