The Twelfth Enchantment, by David Liss

12th_enchantmentIn The Twelfth Enchantment, author David Liss makes a radical departure from his past historical mysteries that mixed purely fictional characters entwined with real people on the fringes of real events.

Three of those novels featured Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish bare-knuckled boxer turned thief taker who explored the complexities of the very real South Sea Bubble in A Conspiracy of Paper, the machinations of Whigs, Tories and Jacobites before England’s 1722 election in A Spectacle of Corruption and secrets of an all-power East India Company in The Devil’s Company.

All were great reads.

In The Twefth Enchantment, Liss still has historical characters, such Ned Ludd, leader of the anti-industrial Luddites, the libertine poet Lord Byron and poet and printmaker William Blake. But from there he stretches his imagination as never before, spinning a tale of magic and characters of uncertain loyalties in a struggle between good and evil in which England’s fate hangs in the balance.  Young Lucy Derrick is at the center of it all.  She has lost her father and an older sister and her reputation, been turned out of her family home and sent to live with a cold, uncaring uncle who appears only to want to rid of himself of Lucy by marrying her off to a man she doesn’t love and whose reasons for wanting to marry her are not at all clear. 

Along the way Lucy discovers she has romantic prospects she never dreamed of and powers she never suspected.

Here the magic is not found in wands but in formulas, the riddles of alchemy and the power of sincerity over the weakness of arrogance.

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