Publication date: March 4, 2014 by Harper
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.
“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.” The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life.
Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption—ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.
Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.
“The Enchanted wrapped its beautiful and terrible fingers around me from the first page and refused to let go after the last. A wondrous book that finds transcendence in the most unlikely of places, enshrouding horrible things in a gossamer veil of fantasy with a truly unforgettable narrator. So dark yet so exquisite.” — Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus
When offered the chance to read and review The Enchanted, I jumped at it. I have read so many things about it that I just had to see for myself. Let's just say that I was not disappointed. Let's say that the book had a profound affect on me. Let's say that The Enchanted is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and probably the best book I have read in a year.
Now, why would I feel this way about The Enchanted? The writing is just amazingly beautiful. I can't even begin to describe how it blends fantasy with the horrors of prison life and brings the events so vividly to life.
The narrator is a death row inmate who goes unnamed through the entire book until the last few pages. He has committed crimes that aren't explicitly described, but are so horrific that no one will utter the words. The reader must fill in the blanks. But the narrator, the unnamed death row inmate that tells this tale, was also once a boy, a boy who was damaged and turned into something else. This inmate takes solace in the library of the prison when he is first placed in the general population. The library is his sanctuary from prison life. I think most readers can related to the way he describes the library:
The library became my sanctuary. I loved the ways the precious stories took shape but always had room to be read again. I became fascinated with how writers did that. How did they make a story feel so complete and yet so open-ended? It was like painting a picture that changed each time you looked at it. (p. 16)
The warden is one of the few bright lights in the darkness of the prison. He exhibits the humanness that seems to be missing from many of the other people who work there. Despite the horrible crime the inmate committed, the warden shows compassion for him and seems to understand how much he needs the books.
There are others working within the prison who seem more criminal than some of the actual criminals. The guard called Conroy is particularly sinister and causes unimaginable harm to prisoners with his wheeling and dealing inside the prison. Others turn a blind eye and some unwitting innocents pay the ultimate price for trying to do the right thing. This prison world is a dark and unforgiving place. It is truly a dungeon as the inmate repeatedly calls it.
The Lady, and the fallen priest are the other main characters that concern the inmate. He claims to hear their conversations and to know their feelings. The lady is a death penalty investigator and it is her job to investigate the inmates' lives for any reason that could keep them from the death penalty. She is investigating the inmate York and finds a heartbreaking story of a life ruined by those who were supposed to take care of him. The story is just so sad on so many levels. There are so many levels of abuse, miscarriage of justice, discrimination, ignorance, malice, irresponsibility that it just boggles the mind.
This book brings all the worst in humanity and puts it on display so that the reader can't ignore it. It must be confronted. I found the book to be like a punch to the stomach in many places. I was sick; I was heartbroken; I was angry; and I was enchanted. Despite all of the darkness and ugliness, there was always a ray of hope. That spark that promises a new day and a chance to deal with all the ugly.
The characters and the stories told within the larger narrative haunt my thoughts and even my dreams now. After I finished reading the book, I just wanted to talk with someone else who had read it. I still want to. The thing that keeps pestering me is the question of did any of it happen or are the stories of York, the lady, the fallen priest, all an attempt by the inmate at the mystery of writing. Did he make up these stories to entertain himself, to see if he could, to try to keep what sanity remained to him or does he have some other knowledge of these lives away from the prison? And despite the horrors of his life, he tells this tale with so much hope for others. It is quite amazing.
The Enchanted is a book that will not be forgotten. It will be mulled and reread. I am anxious to discuss it with friends. This is most definitely a highly recommended book for those who can handle the subject matter.
About Rene DenfeldRene Denfeld is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, Mitigation Specialist, and fact Investigator in death penalty cases. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a published author of four books including the international bestseller The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, Kill The Body, The Head Will Fall, and All God’s Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families.
Find out more about Rene at her website and connect with her on Facebook.
Rene’s Tour StopsTuesday, March 04, 2014: Books Without Any Pictures
Wednesday, March 05, 2014: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, March 06, 2014: Conceptual Reception
Monday, March 10, 2014: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, March 11, 2014: It’s All About Books
Wednesday, March 12, 2014: Book Addict Katie
Thursday, March 13, 2014: Walking With Nora
Monday, March 17, 2014: Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, March 18, 2014: Bibliotica
Wednesday, March 19, 2014: BoundbyWords
Thursday, March 20, 2014: A Book Geek
Monday, March 24, 2014: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, March 25, 2014: Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, March 26, 2014: River City Reading
Thursday, March 27, 2014: Drey’s Library
Monday, March 31, 2014: Little Lovely Books
Tuesday, April 01, 2014: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, April 02, 2013: Offbeat Vegabond
Thursday, April 03, 2014: Read Lately