The Twelfth Enchantment – David Liss, 2011.
Spells and magic contest with political intrigue in this oddly satisfying historical novel.
Living in the friendless home of a family connection and nearly penniless, about to be married to an odious man she doesn’t love, Lucy Derrick views her future with despair.
Until she unexpectedly frees the great romantic poet, Lord Byron, from a strange curse.
This startling act of magic catapults Lucy into the forefront of a battle for the very future of England as the conflict between the Luddites – angry laborers and textile workers – and proponents of mechanization builds to a crescendo.
Now Lucy must unravel secrets from her own past while racing to reassemble the pages of the most powerful book in the world: the Mutus Liber, a true book of alchemy.
The Twelfth Enchantment is an uncommon mélange of historical fiction, fantasy, lively action, and light romance. In other words, it’s pretty great. The premise is wild, but Liss flawlessly melds magic with, of all things, the Industrial Revolution.
Changelings, cunning women, and revenants comingle with actual historical figures that Liss meticulously brings to life in his pages: among them, Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, William Blake, and of course Lord Byron. Intelligent and brave, Lucy herself is an intriguing original character. Frustrated with, but bound by societal constraints, Lucy gradually empowers herself, and we cheer her on.
Maybe all these disparate elements shouldn’t work together. But they do. The Twelfth Enchantment is a singularly memorable – and enjoyable – read.