Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Enchanted: A Novel

The Enchanted: A Novel

4.6 18
by Rene Denfeld

See All Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
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
Publishers Weekly
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. (Mar.)
“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.”
Erin Morgenstern
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
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.”
Donald Ray Pollock
“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.”
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.”
Kirkus Reviews
The lost souls are on both sides of the bars in this death-row melodrama, the first novel from the author of works on societal issues (All God's Children, 2007, etc.). The prison is old. The row itself is below ground. The nameless narrator calls the place enchanted, for the inmates are under the spell of death. Executions in the lethal injection chamber are frequent. Mute since the age of 6, this narrator left a mental hospital at 18 and did something "too terrible to name" to a little boy. He found sanctuary in the prison library until, intolerably provoked, he beat another inmate to death and was transferred to solitary. There are too many gaps in the mute's story to make him compelling. We know much more about his neighbor York, convicted of crimes against girls, again unspecified. His beautiful, mentally challenged mother had slept with half their small town; her visitors took advantage of York, too. He was born with syphilis. This detail is uncovered by the lady, as the death penalty investigator is known. (The author has worked in this field.) Acting for the defense to commute York's sentence to life, she is up against a tight deadline and against York himself, who wants to die. Her sleuthing could have made a powerful novella, but there are too many distractions. We delve into the lady's background, a mirror image of York's. She's painfully alone but looking for a mate, and she finds one in another death-row visitor, the fallen priest, a loner burdened by guilt. But Denfeld's not done; she explores the prison culture, in which corruption is rampant and rape condoned. She is on much surer ground here than with her magic realist touches, such as the golden horses that live beneath the row and start running as an execution nears. Their role? "[B]eauty in the pain," says the priest. An over-the-top work with a number of preordained victims but no individuals.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
529 KB

Meet 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Enchanted: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
thebookwormNJ More than 1 year ago
I will begin my post by saying that Rene Denfeld has blown me away. This quietly unsettling novel grabbed hold of me from the start and did not let go until the final page was turned. The author does a fantastic job at slowly drawing you in and revealing the plot in layers. This is an uneasy read, with unreliable narrators and as I read, I wondered what was real or imagined. Death row inmate York wants to die, he does not want any help or second chances, he is ready to go. The Lady, an investigator who tries to find information that can save death row inmates, is assigned to his case. As she tries to help York, goes to his hometown and looks into his past, you know she has dark secrets of her own and finds she has things in common with York. I really wanted to know what York's crime was, and in the end I never found out.  A fallen priest is woven into the storyline and his past is a sad one as well. He works in the prison, spending those last moments with the inmates on death row, reading them letters from their loved ones before they go.  Arden, another death row inmate, narrates most of the story and he imagines this prison as a magical place. I didn't want him inside my head, I didn't want to see the story through his eyes, yet I was entranced. This is a place where horses live beneath the dungeon and where there is magic all around.  As the story unfolds you see the traumatic childhood York suffered and then of course wonder, was he a victim of circumstance? Did the abuse he suffered as a child make him into a killer? Plenty of this storyline was disturbing but the author has a knack for delivering those punches softly. Nothing too detailed or gory, yet just awful enough to make your skin crawl. Denfeld takes us into these prison walls with all the horrors that entails, corruption, abuse, the room itself where death row inmates are given the deadly dosage, yet she does it all with a dreamlike quality. The story is beautifully written.  I think the thing that most stood out for me with this novel is that although the setting is grim and depressing, the main character a murderer, there was beauty and heartbreak woven together here.  The blurb compares this novel to the works of Stephen King. After reading it, I'd say the similarities might be in the setting itself, and in the goings on in the prison. Some scenes reminded me of King's The Green Mile. The author herself is a licensed investigator specializing in the same kind of work the character of the Lady does. Which makes me wonder how much of the story is based on real life events? Inevitably, the issue of the death penalty arises here. The character of the Lady has a job to do, try and find information to take these men off death row, yet she knows these are convicted murderers who have ruined lives.  All in all, The Enchanted will make my top reads for 2014. This was a powerful and beautifully written novel. I recommend it to fans of magical realism and heart breaking stories. disclaimer: I received my free copy via Amazon Vine. This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was sad upon finishing the book. I found it riveting and deeply emotional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful writing. Unsettling topics but well written.. themes of despair, losing hope, how a person can become a monster. And how inevitably human and monster still want one thing. This is not something you read to pass the time. This is a book you read when you want to think about our world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very thought provoking book ....no matter which side of the issue you are on... It will take you places you never dreamed existed. Confused and unhappy people on both sides of the bars. It did put a newlight on this issue for me. And certainly broadened my knowledge of the inner lives and qorkings of the system. Good books make you think, right? I think it is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read. Gritty and disturbing.
imbrium More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A frightening tale Way more real than ' The Green Mile' ... you need to read something light and uplifting after this. Don't read this before going to sleep 5 stars for superb writing and bring characters to life ..and death
Leah60 More than 1 year ago
Easy read that will provoke a lot of emotions
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's not a book I normally would have read, but once I did, it's now one of my Top 5 favorite books. Something about the characters make you care about them and want to make sure they get what the want. 
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld is about a magical place where golden horses run underground and men with hammers roam the insides of the walls. Sometimes there is a glimpse of sunlight, but more often than not it’s a place steeped in darkness. That’s because The Enchanted takes place on death row in an ancient prison with crumbling floors and long spiraled hallways. Although the prison is ancient, the story takes place in present day and tells a story of men waiting to die as a death row investigator and priest seek explanations and answers. As a policy wonk who has spent some time researching the criminal justice system, I’ve always had pretty strong feelings about the death penalty’s implementation and the recent botches haven’t done much to change to my mind. That said, my understanding of how death row works and functions has been largely from an academic standpoint. Recently, however, I’ve begun to understand the human side of death row, for better or for worse. A good friend of mine, who works as a corrections officer and has worked with death row inmates, has been kind enough these last few months to answer all of my questions honestly, even when it’s hard for me to hear. Of course, we are approaching the subject from wildly different perspectives, so while we respect each other’s viewpoints, we rarely come to a full agreement. It’s this backstory that contributed to why I loved The Enchanted so much. Written by a death row investigator who, surely, grapples with the concept of guilt as part of her career, the book addresses so many of the questions that I have about people on death row and in jail, in general. Of course, there are those who deserve to be there, no questions asked, but I’ve often wondered how a person becomes someone who gets sentenced to life or death. Was it their childhood? Were they abused? Did the system fail them? Did they get an education? Are they mentally ill? The Enchanted asks all of these questions, and it will make you question everything you thought you knew about the guilty. Allison @ The Book Wheel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and painful book. I was rivetted until the very end.
MoonshadowJM More than 1 year ago
Enchanting! I could not put this book down and finished it in one day. It is beautifully written ... a haunting story about prisoners on death row and people who work with them. Highly recommended!  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book stays with you well after you finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sent this book to my son; who is in prison for life. He said it is so awesome he's nearly done with it because he can't put it down. A real page-turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unique is now formatic. For the die hard fan of the combo only three star for them a pass for me into archive limbo as a unfinished one