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The Enchanted
Cover of The Enchanted
The Enchanted
A Novel
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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.

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.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Rene Denfeld is an author, journalist, and death penalty investigator. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of four nonfiction books. The Enchanted received the Prix du Premier Roman Étranger in France.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 25, 2013
    The fiction debut from nonfiction author and journalist Denfeld (Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall) is a striking one-of-a-kind prison novel. The narrator, who is on death row and remains nameless until the book’s end, explains that the prison, although a place where “the walls sigh with sadness,” is enchanted: golden horses “run deep under the earth,” miniature men with miniature hammers hide in the walls, and “flibber-gibbets dance while the oven slowly ticks.” The narrator’s magical perspective—which is paradoxically necessary, perhaps, to preserve what remains of his sanity—contrasts heartbreakingly with the parallel tale of an investigator, also unnamed, who is tasked with finding details about the past of another death-row inmate, known as York, that will result in his sentence being commuted, even though York has decided he wants to die. The novel follows the investigator’s exploration of the inmate’s grim life, even as the narrator brings us inside the dank stone walls of the “dungeon” where he lives. Through the novel’s rich, haunting prose, Denfeld, who herself has worked as an investigator in death penalty cases, shines a light on lives led with capital punishment on the schedule. This is a stunning first novel from an already accomplished writer that will leave the reader hoping for more fiction in the author’s future. Agent: Richard S. Pine, Inkwell Management.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2013

    Filled with themes of pain and suffering and still a pleasure to read, this impressive debut from author/journalist Denfeld (All God's Children) is set in a decaying, dark, corrupt prison, but as the opening line reveals, it "is an enchanted place." The Lady, a death-row investigator (similar to mitigation specialist Denfeld) uses her unique perspective as a victim of terrible childhood abuse and conditions to research the lives of inmates. Working with her are a fallen priest, who is hiding secrets and hurt of his own, and the warden, whose wife is dying of cancer. Much of the story is told from the fantastical perspective of a reclusive prisoner on death row, preferring to remain unseen for his own protection and those around him. In many ways, this is a tale about being seen, understood, possibly forgiven, and maybe even loved. VERDICT While dark enough to appeal to fans of fantasy and horror (think Stephen King's The Green Mile), this is also a work of love and redemption. Read this magical book, and prepare to be spellbound. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/13.]--Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publishers Weekly

    "A striking one-of-a-kind prison novel. . . . [with] rich, haunting prose . . . A stunning first novel from an already accomplished writer."

  • Library Journal (starred review)

    "[An] impressive debut. . . . Read this magical book, and prepare to be spellbound."

  • Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All The Time

    "Rene Denfeld is a genius. In The Enchanted, she has imagined one of the grimmest settings in the world--a dank and filthy death row in a corrupt prison--and given us one of the most beautiful, heart-rending, and riveting novels I have ever read."

  • Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

    "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 . . . So dark yet so exquisite."

  • Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

    "The Enchanted is unlike anything I've ever read. . . . Contagious and seductive. The reader comes to see through Denfeld's strange lens, and to savor the richness of the view long after the final page has turned."

  • Booklist

    "Evocative. . . . Denfeld's humanizing of the potential for horror that is within all of us and her insistence that the reader see the beauty in the darkest corners of life sizzles through her sharp prose, which both makes us flinch and invites us to imagine."

  • New York Journal of Books

    "The Enchanted explores the complexities of many crucial issues, including how we treat our children and the vulnerable and the consequences of our actions. It also makes us ask whether our personal behavior, social policies, and the justice system perpetuate more pain than otherwise for humanity."

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    "If you enjoy mystery and suspense as well as a bit of magic and horror you will find it all here. The story is enthralling and keeps you reading far into the night."

  • The Oregonian

    "The Enchanted is instead a testament to the power of words, of language and symbols to reshape one's reality, and it is an extraordinarily empathetic look at the sorrows and joys of even the worst aspects of human life."

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    HarperCollins
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