David Liss and I don’t exactly have the best track record: I’ve tried to read The Devil’s Company twice, and both times I had to concede defeat. There was something about the pace and the constant digressions in the narrative that prevented me from getting completely involved in the story. Needless to say, I was a little wary when I picked up The Twelfth Enchantment, but it sounded like a very different book, and several authors and bloggers I respect enjoyed it, so while the East Coast was bunking down for Hurricane Irene, I cracked the cover and started reading.
By the time the hurricane passed, I finished the book.
The Twelfth Enchantment is the story of Lucy Derrick, a destitute orphan who is living as an unwanted guest in her uncle’s house. Her life changes when a stranger arrives and warns her against marrying the local mill owner. This stranger transpires to be the notorious Lord Byron, and he appears to be striken by a curse that Lucy is able to lift. As Lucy begins to fully comprehend her abilities, she find herself pursued by two factions who want to harness her power to change the fate of England forever.
I think what I liked most about this book is that it’s so different from The Devil’s Company. Liss just let the story unfold, and I could not stop reading. I loved the juxtaposition of historical fiction and fantasy, and I especially loved that the magical elements weren’t too esoteric, which can happen very easily when you’re dealing with alchemy. The reactions of various members of society to the Industrial Revolution added a lot of color and context to the story, and the idea of magic and secret orders influencing the industrial development in England was handled in such a way that it didn’t seem too unbelievable.
I was afraid that Lucy was going to be a whiny heroine, but she became stronger as she came into her power, and I ended up warming to her and thoroughly rooting for her. In fact, most of the characters in the book are not at all what they seem, but I can’t say too much without getting spoilery. Let’s just say that each chapter will keep you guessing and leave it at that.
I could not get enough of The Twelfth Enchantment and was kind of sad when I came to the end. I can’t wait to give the other David Liss books another chance!