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The Twelfth Enchantment    by David Liss order for
Twelfth Enchantment
by David Liss
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Twelfth Enchantment, David Liss sets a magical struggle for the soul of England against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution and Luddites' struggles against horrific working conditions in factories for the poor. And all through his enchanting narrative are figures reminiscent of characters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

After the sudden death of her beloved elder sister, and the subsequent loss of her father, an impoverished Lucy Derrick has been forced to live in Nottiongham with a miserly uncle by marriage, Richard Lowell, chaperoned by his disagreeble serving woman, Mrs. Quince. Her other sister, Martha, married their father's heir, Mr. William Buckles (a clergyman), but he refused to give Lucy a home. Lowell has decreed that Lucy must wed Mr. Olson, a local mill owner. Though reluctant, she is resigned to her fate.

Then, a man arrives at Uncle Lowell's door, calling for Lucy Derrick, and insisting that she must not marry Olson and she 'must gather the leaves', before collapsing. He turns out to be the notorious Lord Byron, under a curse. When the doctor recommends a local lady as being 'learned in such matters', they consult Miss Mary Crawford. With her mentoring, Lucy finds herself able to lift the curse. Miss Crawford befriends her, continues to tutor her in magic, and informs Lucy that Martha's husband cheated them of their inheritance.

Just before her sister's death, Lucy had eloped with Jonas Morrison, though her father found them quickly and brought her home. Now Jonas re-enters her life, but not as a suitor. He's a Rosicrucian, seeking the scattered pages of an ancient tome, the Mutus Liber (that contains the secrets of eternal life), the very leaves that Lucy has been urged to gather. In addition to the Rosicrucians, powerful immortal revenants also seek the book.

Lucy is soon launched on a series of adventures, involving Byron, Morrison, and Mary Crawford among others. She's never sure who she can trust as she does her best to gather the leaves and also to recover her infant niece, for whom a monstrous changeling has been exchanged. More than one sacrifice is required before it's all over, but Lucy eventually wins through to a life of meaning. If you enjoy historical fantasy, then give this romp a try; it makes an entertaining read.

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