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The Twelfth Enchantment: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 9, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068968
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 10 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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

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

More About the Author

David Liss is the author six novels, most recently The Devil's Company. He has five previous bestselling novel: A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, The Coffee Trader, A Spectacle of Corruption, The Ethical Assassin and The Whiskey Rebels. In 2008, at the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Bali, Indonesia, he was named an Artist for Integrity by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. No one is really sure why he should receive this honor or what it means, but it very possibly makes him the Bono of historical fiction. David Liss's novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and children. Visist his web site at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By D. Campbell on September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've been hooked on David Liss since I read the first page of "A Conspiracy of Paper" a couple of years ago. His novels are funny and intricately constructed. I pre-ordered this on the strength of past experience. I was sorely disappointed.

It's not that it's fantasy about the occult: I can suspend disbelief to read about Sookie Stackhouse and am fanatic about Harry Potter. But this book was just plain silly. And not in a good way. I can only believe that Mr. Liss decided to try his hand at occult/fantasy just for a lark.

Lucy Derrick is straight out of Jane Austen, or maybe Dickens, which is fine. But the situations and characters are simultaneously preposterous and predictable. Our heroine, an impoverished young woman of undeserved questionable repute, is for some reason beset by all manner nefarious ill-wishers, living and undead. She lives with a distant uncle who wants to marry her off to a banal mill owner troubled by Luddites. There's no clear motivation for any of the characters to act or react the way they do, except for the fact that they're being controlled by (potential SPOILER) an evil fairy(!) who is Lucy's nemesis, unbeknownst to Lucy. She seems to have some friends, but perhaps they have been bewitched, perhaps not. None of it makes any sense.

Lord Byron (seriously!) is a major player, as is William Blake. In Mr. Liss's other fiction, historical characters make appearances that, while fictional, are not impossible to accept. For example, Alexander Hamilton appears in "The Whiskey Rebels" in a capacity that is reasonable. For the politically-driven plot to advance, Hamilton had to make an appearance. Historical fiction in general uses real people in imagined stories.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By William Skipper on August 16, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Perhaps I should recuse myself from reviewing this book, for as a child I found the Hobbit impenetrable. I am indifferent to the world of Harry Potter. The popular vampire books couldn't possibly interest me less.

But I am a very big fan of David Liss's works.

THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT starts out with great promise. It's 1812, England. Lucy Derrick is a strong heroine--sort of Jane Austen's next door neighbor, if you will. She's been orphaned, living in penury with a dreadful dreadful uncle and an evil caretaker and is about to be married off to a colorless dolt of a mill owner.

Then Lord Byron (yes, THE Lord Byron) appears at her door. He's apparently suffering under some kind of curse (vomiting pins, no less).

What follows is a very strange adventure into the world of magic, fairies, changelings, immortals, ghosts, zombies and lord knows what else.

It's readable, mainly due to the wonderful historical details that are the hallmark of Liss's books. Lucy Derrick, as I said, is a very strong heroine. The writing itself is gorgeous in places.

However, in the final analysis, magic isn't my bag. I got through it but it was a chore at times.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By P on September 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm willing to stretch my imagination and accept magic and fairies as a "real" scenario, but this was the driest, biggest stretch of a novel. The characters were annoying and the main premise of the book - saving the world from industrialization - was SO ridiculous as a motivation for all of the action; it was given rather superficial treatment for such a driving force. I found myself constantly asking myself, "Why?" Things seemed so random: Lord Byron made no sense, coincidences right and left. It was a chore to read and disappointing from an author such as Liss.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By reader on August 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of David Liss' books starting from the wonderful "A Conspiracy of Paper". He has departed significantly from his previous historical fiction in this book, which blends period detail with romance and the supernatural. The heroine in this work has a gift for magic, which drives the remainder of the story. Fairies, witches, and even a Golum appear and Liss' prior use of historical period characters in a story here employs Lord Byron as someone who is intertwined with the occult and is eventually reincarnated as a fairy, and William Blake as a feeble communicator with ghosts. While I love his writing skills, I found this book to require too much suspension of disbelief to be credible, and Liss' foray into popular occult disappointing and beneath him. I do not doubt he will sell many copies, based on our culture's fascination with all things supernatural. However, it is a poor trick. Liss has in the past proved himself able to create far deeper and believable characters than a 19th century Sookie Stackhouse and to write with far greater depth than demonstrated here or by Charlaine Harris. I can only conjecture that our poor economy is driving his writing. I hope he is able to recapture and return to the art that made him a great writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Heaney on March 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a big fan of David Liss' early books. I felt they were well-researched and the stories were believable. After his third book, I have felt the story lines have begun to go down an ever-increasing black hole of unbelievability. In the Twelfth Enchantment, magic and black arts are pulled from nowhere and used with devastating power, and then inexplicably ignored or used incongruently with prior displays; i.e.: if she can do that, than why doesn't she...? Character motivations and backgrounds are odd and wanting - a trait that was so different from Liss' first three books. The fact is that this book is just hollow because the poorly constructed story can't hide in the shadow of Liss' quality writing style. I finished the book, but decided I am unlikely to waste my time on a Liss book ever again. What a huge disappointment.
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