The Fiery Alphabet


News: The Fiery Alphabet makes the list of Top Reads of 2013 from TNBBC!

And thank you, Beth Castrodale, for making The Fiery Alphabet a Small Press Pick.

It’s dangerous for a girl to be a mathematical prodigy in 18th-century Rome.

Daniela Messo and her father withdraw themselves from the world until Giuseppe Balsamo, occultist and charlatan, finds them, convinced Daniela has inherited the secrets of a long-dead Jewish mystic. In Balsamo’s company, Daniela sets off across Europe en route to Jerusalem, as they play the role of wonder-working pilgrims, swindling people along the route even as they seek salvation.

Official pub date was September 5, 2013 from Loose Leaves Publishing and is widely available as paperback or e-book: Amazon and B&N or order from an independent brick and mortar bookstore or better yet, support independent publishing by purchasing directly from Loose Leaves here.

The blurbs and first review are in:

From ForeWord Reviews: “Lefer has written a complex and thoroughly satisfying book, a work that, above all, is about the power of words to bring life or death, to create walls that imprison body and mind, or to break those walls down and open the gates to freedom.” (full review here)

FAL cover
The Fiery Alphabet is a stunning and ambitious novel–philosophical and deeply sensual all at once. Diane Lefer writes with fire on every single page, taking the reader straight to the molten core of life.–Gayle Brandeis, The Book of Dead Birds

What an enchanting and wondrous book. Exploring the mysteries of love and faith in a language so refined it reads like a poem, Lefer transports the reader into eighteenth-century Europe, a complex world pulsing with fecund desire and unrelenting poverty, but ripe, too, with fools and intellectuals as curious and confused as they are devout. In a voice as unique and thrilling as any I’ve encountered in literature, Daniela Messo seeks the secrets not only of her past, but of life itself.–Robin Oliveira, My Name Is Mary Sutter

First stop on the blog tour. I’m interviewed by Eliza Gale

Stop #2: Dorothy Bendel asks me Five Questions for She Writes

Stop #3: on Jessica Knauss’ blog


Douglas Glover offers an intro and excerpt in his online magazine Numero Cinq.

I spotted a gratifying plug online (for both the book and my publisher) from Mexico-City-born Claudia Long, author of Josefina’s Sin:

I was attracted to Loose Leaves Publishing because of The Fiery Alphabet. I read about the book in the She Writes newsletter. I liked the sound of the book and bought it. As soon as I started it, I was entranced. Who publishes such a book? I wondered. No major house would take a chance on such an esoteric topic, despite the fact that The Fiery Alphabet could be a best-seller. I checked and it was Loose Leaves. The choices, and the beauty of the publication, point to a fine, truly independent house.

Susan K. Perry interviews me about the book for The Creative Atheist. Here.


appealing to a diverse audience

appealing to a diverse audience

I thought I’d share some online reviews from people I don’t know.


Posted December 25, 2013

Diane Lefer has written a fun, brilliant and dizzying book. Combining an incredible eye for the absurd realities of history with philosophical arguments and a breakneck adventure The Fiery Alphabet takes us on a wild ride through 18th century Europe on the way to the Holy Lands. The two main characters are a female mathematical prodigy who is treated as a witch and her lover, life-tutor, the notorious charlatan, Cagliostro. All in all, I highly recommend this book.

By Hill’s Pills (Ponce, PR) – 5.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched historical wild ride., December 16, 2013

This review is from: The Fiery Alphabet (Kindle Edition)

This is a remarkable book, beautifully written and mind-bending in its riffs about the philosophies and realities of 18th century European life. In an age where enlightenment knocked heads with superstition, con men could become superstars.
The book follows the story of Daniela Messo a mathematical prodigy and her travels with Cagliostro, a great philosopher, humbug, seducer and cheat. Their adventures are fun and provocative.

The details of life at this time are fascinating and come at dizzying speed. For example, if a child is likely to die in the womb, a priest piped in holy water for its baptism. I assume this is from the author’s research, however if the author can invent something this satirically brilliant, it would be even more amazing.

My only criticism is that at the beginning there are a few pages of notes from the translator. These are interesting, but merely interesting is an insult compared to the wild ride ahead.

Four stars for the writing and one more star because it is the kind of book I enjoy so much: a well-researched historical romp.

Dec 25, 2013Martin Hill rated it 5 of 5 stars

I recently decided to join goodreads to share with others some of my favorite books. I suppose most of my reviews will be overwhelmingly positive. I don’t feel the need to talk about books I didn’t like…

Diane Lefer’s The Fiery Alphabet is a remarkable tale well-told. It takes place in 18th century Italy (and other locales) following the adventures of a child math prodigy who is treated as a witch and her Svengali-like mentor, the historical figure and charlatan, Cagliostro. It combines a near grotesque vision of the 18th century where science is still buried under pompous superstition with a coming-of-age story and sweeping overview of women’s rights.

I found the endeavor thrilling. It starts a bit slowly with a foreword about the translator’s journey. This part can be skipped. The clash of ideas: enlightenment versus dogmatism is illuminated with brilliant language. A great read

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