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REVIEW: The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

The Twelfth Enchantment
Author: David Liss

Goodreads Synopsis: Lucy Derrick is a young woman of good breeding and poor finances. After the death of her beloved father, she is forced to maintain a shabby dignity as the unwanted boarder of her tyrannical uncle, fending off marriage to a local mill owner. But just as she is on the cusp of accepting a life of misery, events take a stunning turn when a handsome stranger—the poet and notorious rake Lord Byron—arrives at her house, stricken by what seems to be a curse, and with a cryptic message for Lucy. Suddenly her unfortunate circumstances are transformed in ways at once astonishing and seemingly impossible. 

With the world undergoing an industrial transformation, and with England on the cusp of revolution, Lucy is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy in which her life, and her country’s future, are in the balance. Inexplicably finding herself at the center of cataclysmic events, Lucy is awakened to a world once unknown to her: where magic and mortals collide, and the forces of ancient nature and modern progress are at war for the soul of England . . . and the world. The key to victory may be connected to a cryptic volume whose powers of enchantment are unbounded. Now, challenged by ruthless enemies with ancient powers at their command, Lucy must harness newfound mystical skills to prevent catastrophe and preserve humanity’s future. And enthralled by two exceptional men with designs on her heart, she must master her own desires to claim the destiny she deserves. 

The Twelfth Enchantment is the most captivating work to date of a master literary conjurer.

So that is kind of a long synopsis of the book!  I finished reading this a couple of weeks ago but am only now sitting down to write the post.  It was a decent book and fairly predictable in some areas.

Sometimes it seemed that the writing tried too hard to be “old”.  By “old” I mean mimicking the writing of books written in the 1800s or so.  It didn’t really detract from the book (as it took place in the 1800s) but I just thought it felt slightly forced.  The characters were fairly well written, some better than others.  The main characters were definitely the better written ones as we were able to “see” them more.

The ending was predictable though there was a slight twist at one point that I wasn’t expecting.

The belief in magic was definitely a lot more prevalent in that time period and a number of historical fiction novels I read had some element of it.  I thought the magic in this book was good.  It was well written and more natural/philosophical than wand waving.  I really enjoyed the following quotation about magic:

Magic implies some sort of exception from the rules that govern the world, something outside nature, but if these things were magic in that sense, those spells could not be written down. There could be no knowing if a spell would work from one time to the next. But these things you teach me to do – they are governed by laws. A spell cast in the same way, under the same conditions, with the same level of concentration – it will work the same way every time. If that is so, is not magic simply another kind of natural philosophy, though a more obscure one?”

The magic described here makes me think more of alchemy than “hocus pocus”.

The Twelfth Enchantment was fine to read, but I don’t know if I’ll be re-reading it any time soon.

(Full disclosure, I also feel like this is a half-hearted review, since I waited a bit after I read it to write it)

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3 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

  1. I’ve read a few of Liss’ older books, which are good historical fiction. I think the mysticism thing is new for him, I haven’t read his latest books. This one sounds interesting but not great. If you like really detailed historical fiction A Conspiracy of Paper is good.

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