Book Quote:

“I know that changes are coming, and we must be ready to face them. Dark and terrible things, things such as what you saw with Lord Byron and at the mill, but those things are … minor disturbances, harbingers of beings much more dangerous.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  AUG 26, 2011)

The Twelfth Enchantment, by David Liss, starts off promisingly. It is the early nineteenth century and our heroine, Lucy Derrick, is a twenty-year-old orphan who is living unhappily in Nottingham, England, with her cruel uncle and an abusive woman named Mrs. Quince. Although she was well-educated by her late father, Lucy was left almost penniless when he died. She is at the mercy of her vicious uncle, Richard Lowell, who cannot wait to be rid of her. In fact, her uncle plans to give her hand in marriage to a thirty-five year old, dried up prune of a man named Olson, the owner of a local hosiery mill.

Although the Industrial Revolution has brought prosperity to some, this newfound wealth and efficiency has come at a high price. Smokestacks belch thick and toxic fumes that pollute the areas bordering the factories. In addition, manual laborers have been replaced by machinery, leading to high unemployment and abject poverty for those who can no longer feed their families. Furthermore, conditions in the factories are vile and unsafe; even the children who work the looms are beaten when they do not meet their overseer’s expectations.

Lucy’s existence is upended by a series of strange events involving Lord Byron (he shows up often in historical fiction these days), a roué named Mr. Morrison who tarnished Lucy’s reputation when she was just sixteen, an avuncular William Blake, and a mysterious and beautiful stranger, Mary Crawford, who introduces Lucy to a world of spells. It seems that Lucy has uncanny abilities that, if harnessed properly, would give her enormous power. She will need to master a huge amount of arcane knowledge and show tremendous courage, for she will find herself pitted against mighty and evil forces.

Meanwhile, Lucy must decide whether to fend off Byron’s not entirely unwelcome attentions (she admits that he is gorgeous to look at but a thorough reprobate). Lucy has a great deal on her plate: Whom can she really trust? Does she have the intellect and determination to use her unique talent effectively? Will she ever meet the love of her life?

By now, you may have deduced that Liss has overstuffed his narrative. There is a derivative quality to this novel that brings to mind familiar (and better) works, such as: Jane Eyre, who was cast off without a penny but stood up for herself as a proud, moral, and independent woman; Hard Times, in which Charles Dickens decries the forced labor of children and excoriates those who would enrich themselves on the backs of the poor; and the Harry Potter series, in which J. K. Rowling breathes life into magic and wizardry, while also dealing with feelings, relationships, and social issues. Liss often writes lush sentences, is a skilled descriptive writer, and he imbues Lucy with warmth and spirit. It is really too bad that, as the book progresses, the author resorts to clichés, contrivances, and silly twists and turns. The conclusion is flat and anticlimactic, when it should have been exciting and exhilarating. Much of The Twelfth Enchantment is captivating, but the weak conclusion may leave readers less than spellbound.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 47 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House; First Edition edition (August 9, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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August 26, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Scifi, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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