Guest Reviewer: Katherine Howe on The Twelfth Enchantment Katherine Howe is the
New York Times bestselling author of
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and
The Lost Book of Salem. She lives in northern Massachusetts with her husband, dog, and a terrifying phalanx of tomato plants.
What makes a witch? Today a witch is usually a frightening woman dressed in a pointy hat. But for most of European history, magic occurred along a continuum of moral and spiritual value, in which conviction and execution as a witch was only the farthest extreme. In fact, everyday people routinely relied on folk magic to solve all sorts of commonplace problems that couldn't be addressed by other legal, medical, or religious means. All that was required was a bit of cunning.
Cunning folk, as they were known in England, offered occult services, such as placing charms and lifting curses, usually for a fee. The word “cunning” has a double connotation in English – it means clever and capable on the one hand, but it also means sneaky and dubious. As such, men and women who were skilled in folk magical arts tended to have mixed reputations; they served an important role in English village society, but they were also regarded with suspicion.
This fascinating nether world weaves through David Liss's intoxicating new novel, The Twelfth Enchantment
. Set in Regency England, The Twelfth Enchantment
tells the story of Lucy Derrick, a vivacious heroine in the tradition of Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, compelled by her loss of fortune after her father's death into a marriage of convenience to save herself from destitution. On the eve of her engagement, a handsome stranger appears on her doorstep, proclaiming that she must “gather the leaves,” and above all, must not marry her betrothed. He then collapses into a fit, vomiting pins, which the local doctor is powerless to explain.
The stranger's appearance plunges Lucy into an adventure that will remake our notion of what magic is, and what it does. To unravel the stranger's mysterious pronouncement, Lucy must venture deep into her own past, and into the farthest realms of English imagination, of charms and changelings, of fairies and witches, as David Liss spins a modern fairy tale that is equal parts Pride and Prejudice
and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
. Braving danger and duplicity, Lucy Derrick must uncover untold depths of fortitude to save her family, and herself, from a horrifying truth that could shake England to its very foundations. It takes a cunning novelist, indeed, to tell a story as gripping – as magical – as The Twelfth Enchantment
Praise for Twelfth Enchantment
"David Liss takes readers on a light-hearted romp through Regency England in The Twelfth Enchantment.
With an adroit mix of fact and fantasy, Liss casts heroine Lucy Derrick into a world of industrializing mill towns, mysterious enchantments, ghostly dogs, undead fairies, Luddites, and even Lord Byron and his legions of lovesick women. Charged with gathering the scattered pages of an alchemical manuscript, Lucy’s adventures teach her that appearances can be deceptive—and delightfully so. Liss’s deft touch with historical subject matter and his ability to craft tremendously appealing characters makes this a thoroughly enjoyable, satisfying read."
--Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches
PRAISE FOR DAVID LISS The Devil’s Company
“Accomplished, atmospheric and thoughtful.”—The Washington Post The Whiskey Rebels
“Smart, page-turning fun.”—St. Petersburg Times The Ethical Assassin
“[A] page-turning thriller . . . a thought-provoking and highly enjoyable yarn.”—Baltimore Sun A Spectacle of Corruption
“[A] wonderful book . . . easily one of the year’s best.”—The Boston Globe The Coffee Trader
“Unusual and diverting . . . Sometimes, as the book demonstrates with a nice twist, sincerity can be the greatest means of deception.”—The New York Times Book Review A Conspiracy of Paper
“Tremendously smart, assured, and entertaining.”—Newsweek