Monday, February 24, 2014

ARC Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Publisher: Harper
Publishing Date: March 4th, 2014
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 256 pgs
ISBN: 9780062285508
Source: Received for an honest review from Edelweiss/Harper

Summary from Goodreads:
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 magical 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, honor 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.


My Review: 

I first heard of this novel from Kaiti at Harper Collins Canada. She raved about how good the writing in this book is and at that point I knew that I had to read it. It is a novel set in a prison and more specifically deals with the characters that are on death row. The story is narrated by a man on death row and is first person omniscient. This narrator seems to know things that he couldn't possibly know about certain characters in this novel. 
The book explores some of the horrors of prison life and at times it was difficult to read what was happening to some of the inmates. This book doesn't sugarcoat anything and I liked the raw grit of the story. I found that I was interested in what was happening with each of the characters in this novel. I would say that the author didn't focus on one particular character but on a whole cast of characters with equal value to the story. 
One of my favourite characters was the investigator. She is hired to investigate the life of York, a death-row inmate close to his final days. During the course of her investigation you can see some similarities in York's life and in the investigator's life. The juxtaposition of their lives really brings to light that life is a series of choices. For some, you may decide to overcome your adversity while for others it may just be too difficult. At the same time, your past plays such an integral part of how your character is formed. Denfeld poses the question: Did York really stand a chance? The book made me question some of the judgements I have formed previously. Does a killer deserve my sympathy? Is that killer still not just a human being that may have been handed a crappy hand?
I think the real main character of this story isn't one single person but the jail itself. It seems to possess some sort of magical element to it and it records the stories of it's guests. It tells the story of the corrupt guard, the warden, the small time petty thieves, the kingpins, the murderers and the priest. Denfeld is master storyteller and I simply couldn't read this book fast enough. If you don't mind the gruesome at times mixed in with a great narrative then this is the book for you. I think this is a must-read of 2014. 

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