What I Read This Weekend . . .
The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss -- Regency Fantasy/Romance/Austenesque
Miss Lucy Derrick has been miserable since the death of her beloved eldest sister and father and the subsequent marriage of her middle sister to her father's heir, a simpering clergyman unfailingly loyal only to his patroness Lady Harriett (sound familiar). Lucy is stuck in Nottinghamshire with her stingy uncle and his cruel maidservant. Lucy's reputation hangs by a thread since she ran away with the scoundrel Jonas Morrison. Though she returned home with her virtue intact, her uncle never ceases to remind her of the incident. He seeks to remedy the matter by marrying Lucy off to a wealthy local mill owner, Mr. Olson. Lucy sees no way out of her predicament, that is, until one night a ramshackle gentlemen shows up on the doorstep with a cryptic message for Lucy : "gather the leaves" and then proceeds to vomit pins. The doctor declares the young man is under a curse and sends Lucy to a local cunning woman, Mary Crawford (yes THAT Mary Crawford) for help. Mary sees great potential in Lucy and trains Lucy to become a powerful cunning woman. Lucky will need all the help and power she can get for it is 1812, a time of great change in Britain. Lucy soon discovers she is caught in the middle of a great struggle between industrial forces and the Luddites. If she doesn't take a stand, she could be killed and the world as she knows it will be gone forever. What if there was an underlying cause of the Industrial Revolution and that cause was magic? How can Lucy, a mere slip of a girl, change the fate of a nation? With some help from the likes of Lord Byron, Mary Crawford, William Blake and even Mr. Morrison. I enjoyed this story quite a lot. The mystery sucked me in and didn't let me go. I enjoyed learning that there was a magical reason behind the Industrial Revolution and Luddite attacks. I especially liked the quirky secondary characters, some drawn from Jane Austen, some from real life and others fictional. They added some much-needed (dark) humor to the story. At first I did not like Lucy, thinking she was meek and dull (Fanny Price, maybe?) but she grew a lot as the story went on and I really appreciated her growth as a character and how she came to be a strong woman. I also really liked the romance plot though it started a bit late and ended a bit anti-climatically. The magic bits were rather confusing without knowing a whole lot about the history of alchemy or understanding complicated diagrams and charts. I think I would make a terrible alchemist/cunning woman/wizard! The real-life people and events and magical background are well-researched. I'm not sure Lord Byron gets a fair portrayal but there's an interesting explanation for his immortality. The author does an excellent job writing in the voice of a young woman. he manages to capture the tone of Jane Austen without resorting to copying her "stile" exactly. This book can be enjoyed by older teens and adults. Grown-up fans of Harry Potter will enjoy this book a lot. The Philosopher's Stone plays a large role in the story and the Hand of Glory even makes an appearance. Jane Austen fans will love the "Easter Eggs" hidden in the story for them to discover and especially the romantic plot. I highly recommend this book and hope there's a sequel!