THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT
By David Liss (Random House, 399 pages, $26)
Novelist David Liss has taken a new direction with his latest thriller. His five earlier historical novels offered gritty plots and realistic portraits of other eras. "The Twelfth Enchantment," set in early-19th-century England, is a different breed of book -- with characters whose magical powers are central to the plot. Lucy Derrick is a young woman brought up well, but who has fallen on hard times. Her parents are dead, and she must depend on an ungracious uncle for a place to live. With a tattered reputation from a youthful romance, she is pushed to marry a dull suitor. The novel takes her on an adventure with companions that include Lord Byron, the poet and rake, to confront an evil aristocrat with supernatural powers. Like Liss' earlier historical novels, it's a page-turner, but be prepared for a dose of Harry Potter-like wizardry.
DAVID SHAFFER, BUSINESS REPORTER AND EDITOR
I KNEW YOU'D BE LOVELY
By Alethea Black (Broadway Paperback Original, 238 pages, $14)
The 13 stories in this exceptionally fine debut by a young writer from Massachusetts range in tone from the Gothic to the uproariously hilarious. In one, the despairing father of a deeply troubled teenage boy finds him about to shoot himself during a camping trip. In another, an uninspired young teacher tracks down the charismatic English teacher of her youth and has a startling interlude. In another, a young woman sitting nude as her artist lover paints her portrait realizes he does not love her. Black's characters are primarily young, intelligent and quirky, yet none is like another. These are highly readable, unpretentious but surprising stories about love, and about the ways in which people learn about themselves, others and life in the most unlikely ways and moments.
PAMELA MILLER, NIGHT METRO EDITOR