Book Tour Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld
Genre: general fiction, magical realism
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Published: March 4 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 2.5/5

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.

The Enchanted is a story of examining some of life's small horrors. It's the horror of lives wasted or taken, of inhuman acts and lifetimes of punishment. The close look into the lives of society's outcasts and modern, every-day villains. It is a different novel, giving voice to the voiceless, often through unnamed narrators. The fiction debut for this author, The Enchanted is evocative and memorable, but stumbles when it comes to other elements of the execution.

I needed to digest and think once I finished this short but mentally exhausting novel. Denfeld can undoubtedly write, and write well, but truth be told, this is a dark and somewhat scattered narrative. It's not easy reading, and it won't be a book for everyone. The content is too unsettling for mass appeal, but Denfeld's talent is undeniable. She is an author that can turn a phrase, but the content of The Enchanted is so unfocused and almost plotless, that lovely prose means little when judged against the meandering bigger picture. 

I'm never a fan of books that choose to change from first person to third person for various characters. It always interrupts the flow of the novel and highlights the artificiality of the story being told. It's disruptive, and I found it so here. You never really get to know the characters on a personal basis, so the remoteness of the 3rd person narration feels unnecessary. The only way readers know whose story (in the 3rd person) they are reading is from the labels "the lady" "the warden" "the boy with white hair" that pepper the narrative.

Books that tackle difficult characters and themes are nothing new, but The Enchanted does little with its characters but try to shock readers with a "real" picture of life inside. It's not that the book needs to be sanitized or censored from harsh realities of life incarcerated, but it is nearly unrelentingly dark and painful. It's not a book you can actively enjoy, exactly. No one has a good lot in their lifestory, random innocents are murdered, kids are murdered and abused... it's so dark you can miss the few flashes of light that do pop up in the narrative.

The Enchanted is an unsettling, though beautifully written, book. Author Rene Denfeld is not afraid to explore the darkest corners of modern human society and the resulting work of fiction is a stark and unflinching story. It won't be a bestseller, but it might make readers think a bit.


  1. 'unrelentingly dark and painful' is an excellent description. And plotless! It seriously was, what the hell was the point. lol Glad to see that I wasn't the only one that missed the 'dark beauty' that other reviewers claimed this possessed. Great review, Jessie. :)

  2. I'm glad that you enjoyed her writing even if the plot didn't quite work for you. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  3. It sounds like such a tricky little book. This might be a Halloween read for me.


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