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An Open Letter to David Liss, Author


Dear David,

I owe you an apology for misjudging The Twelfth Enchantment before I even opened it. I received a galley copy a couple of weeks before the publication date and tossed the book on the kitchen table, making a horrid face, dreading actually getting around to reading it.

You see, the fantasy market has been spammed with all kinds of god awful mash-ups like Jane Austin and Emily Bronte Kill Zombies in Space. Romantic/Victorian story + classic monster = $$. I had assumed that The Twelfth Enchantment would be another in this increasingly more obnoxious genre of Mad Libs Classic Fiction.

I was happily surprised to find that The Twelfth Enchantment has been one of the most refreshing and enjoyable books I’ve read in a really long time. Lucy Derrick is an incredibly sympathetic character. You put her in a Jane Eyre sort of situation, but Lucy has her own life and her own personality. She starts out poor and at the mercy of evil relatives, with the daunting task of “gathering the leaves.” She is easy to both like and believe. And she is fun. However, as soon as Lucy meets Miss Crawford and realizes she has a propensity for magic, she doesn’t take guff from anyone. Lucy doesn’t wait for other people to save her – she saves her own damn self. And this is why I love her.

Lucy’s ease in learning magic was a little forced, but I understand that she had to do this quickly to move her story along. Magic in The Twelfth Enchantment is a means to an end as opposed to the story itself. Magic is what brings such diverse characters as Lucy, Jonas Morrison, Miss Crawford, Lady Harriet, Lord Byron, and William Blake together. I was especially taken with your characterizations of William Blake and Lord Byron. Blake has especially left me intrigued. He was a fascinating man in reality and you’ve made him an even more fascinating character with the ability to see time as a flexible thing. In regard to Lord Byron… you’ve made me want to use the term “notorious rake” in my everyday vocabulary.

The Twelfth Enchantment isn’t only about Lucy Derrick and her adventures in learning magic. It is about the struggle for humanity to survive in a world bent on crushing it into oblivion. As Lucy gains power, she is courted by several factions, most notably the Luddites, who seek to use her to stop the dehumanization of the Industrial Revolution, and the Rosicrucians who at first stand in favor of the Industrial Revolution. Both the Luddites and their foes are characterized by supernatural elements, and we learn quickly that “fairies” aren’t the innocent, adorable creatures we had always thought. In fact, they’re kind of assholes. With all the magic and wonder of The Twelfth Enchantment, you put a very interesting spin on the age old war of man vs. machine, which I think we’ve been dealing with again for the last decade with the Techno Revolution.

Again, I apologize for assuming The Twelfth Enchantment was so much less than it turned out to be. It’s fun and witty, and even a little bittersweet, with a believable SFC (Strong Female Character!). I hope to run into Lucy Derrick again in the future. It would be a shame if her adventure came to an end so quickly.

Carey Gibbons,

Correction: I had wrongfully assumed that David Liss was the writer behind Mystery Men - the silliness that spawned a 1999 movie (that was actually pretty funny). David Liss is not this guy. He does, however, write a comic called Mystery Men that is entirely different. He also wrote Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. So, here's a second apology to David Liss for getting his comics info incorrect. But he is a comics nerd and I still love The Twelfth Enchantment.

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