Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. Fave book of the year?

I'm not going to beat around the proverbial bush here, people. I loved The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld, just as much as everyone else seems to.

"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. 

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, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own. --Modified from Goodreads


Sorry I had to yank the description from elsewhere, but this book is so odd and hard to describe. Denfeld's prose is lilting and imaginative, full of striking imagery and brutality. It doesn't seem like it would all go together, but it does. The story is one inmate's method of coping with his eventual death and the absolutely squalid and savage conditions on death row. His mind is filled with beauty and escape because he has books and the memory of stories to balance the memory of his own mistakes.


Denfeld has a remarkable way of making so many of the death row characters sympathetic, despite their horrific actions. As I was reading and piecing together various characters' experiences, I did think to myself, "Wow, these are all really similar. Like, lazy-writing similar?" However, upon completion, the similarity in various characters' backstories makes a striking point: whether you're on the outside or the inside of prison walls or on the good or bad side of the law, there is really very little difference in the "good guys" and the "bad guys." It's all about what one does with the negative experiences that dictates where one falls. 


Remarkable book, maybe my favorite of 2014. 

Pub. Date: March 2014
Publisher: Harper
Format: ARC
ISBN: 0062285505 
Source: Passed along from a friend. But who was it? GAH!




38 comments:

  1. Great description of the story! I'm 3/4 of the way through this book and I've been completely sucked into the story. How did you feel about the lady character?

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    1. Thanks! I really liked her. I think at first I was a little skeptical of her but I enjoyed her journey a lot.

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  2. I haven't heard of this one, but my goodness I sure want to read it now!

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  3. I really enjoyed this one, too. I'm in a Goodreads group that tries to read all the Tournament of Books potentials before they come out and this was the one that's been read so far. Something came up in the discussion - did you not know who the narrator was through the book? So many people in the group saw that as a reveal at the end, but when I looked at my review I think I spoiled it because I knew all along.

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    1. I did not! He kept talking about himself in third person, so I didn't catch it until the end. I'm interested to read it again and see what I missed along the way.

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  4. I bet my sister would love this one too!

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    1. Cool! I hope she loves it as much as I did!

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  5. This was such a unique, interesting book--I don't blame you for lifting the description from elsewhere. I had such a hard time describing it without giving too much away, even though it's really not a book about "big reveals" or full of potential spoilers.

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    1. Right? Such a weird combo but it works so well! And yes, it is too easy to give too much away even though it's not about twists and reveals.

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  6. So, I guess this is why you told me to read it, huh? I better get on that....

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  7. When I first heard of this book, I thought it was going to be a fairy tale of sorts. I was surprised to learn it's about a prison! But, it still sounds very intriguing. From the description, it sounds like it may still be fairy tale-esque in some ways? I'm looking forward to this one.

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    1. It definitely does have an otherworldly sort of fairy tale feel to it. It's so beautifully odd, you just gotta pick it up!

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  8. Sounds so incredibly different, and different is good. Is it ultra depressing, though? And if it is, I'm guessing the overall quality still justifies a read?

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    1. It is! I didn't find it ultra depressing. It could've been if it wasn't for this glaze of magic over it, but it's just lovely.

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  9. Ooh, this looks so good. And strangely enough, the Lady described sounds very much like a writer from Texas Tech who came to speak at my uni this past semester. That is her exact job! Anyway, I want to read this. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. Well that's cool! I'm glad you want to read it now. I want to know what you think of it!

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  10. I haven't even heard of this one until now. Thanks!!

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    1. NO WAY! How did you miss this one???? I definitely think you should give it a try.

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  11. Well, you've sold me on it, Andi.

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  12. I'm with Becca; I am sold.

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    1. Woohoo! Two converts! I should get a set of steak knives as a reward from the Book Pushers Association.

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  13. Okay, I’m adding this to my list. Now. I’m a sucker for sympathetic inmate stories.

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    1. Woot! It's definitely got those!

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  14. Sheesh, I really don't need more on my TBR, but I'm afraid this one is going onto it :p

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  15. Alright, I need to read this! I am sold. haha. I love premises like this, it totally captured my attention and is so incredibly intriguing.

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    1. I couldn't resist it either. From the moment I heard about it, I knew!

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  16. I think I just need to give in. The premise of this one doesn't really appeal to me, but it seems that everyone is adoring it. Andi, you are one convincing lady...

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    1. The writing is really what puts this one over the top. It was for me, anyway.

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  17. I put this on my library wish list just by seeing the name of this post in my bloglovin feed :-) I admit it sounds a little odd to me, but I trust you!

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    1. LOL!!! It is odd, but odd is soooo good sometimes.

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  18. Hahaha, it came from me --- I had to pass it along to you because it just didn't WORK for me - GAH! So I'm so very happy it found such a happy home with you, because here was just gathering evil looks from me, ha.

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    1. YES! Lord, yes! You deserve something shiny for sending this my way.

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  19. I've been putting this one off - one of those "if everyone is raving about it now, I need to wait" things. Not sure I want to wait now!

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  20. I find myself really enjoying stories like this lately. I love to challenge my own perspective of the world. I have been thinking a lot about the ways that stereotypes and expectations are woven into my life. People are so frequently quick to judge and categorize everything and everyone. And yet, perspective can topple that neat little system so easily. The bad guys frequently start out with good intentions and sometimes even the most noble of characters can be irreversibly flawed. I love that literature can remind us of these valuable life lessons!

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