"Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: A Novel" by Susanna Clarke

Book Cover

Reviewer: cga

Susanna Clarke's novel, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, is largeboth in terms of physical size and epic scope of story. Set in the early1800s it is a tale of alternate history in which magic is real butalmost completely forgotten in practice. The York Society of Magiciansmeets regularly to discuss English Magic as history and tradition. Noneof them are practical magicians. They can not actually work magic.

In fact, the only practical magician in all of England is GilbertNorrell. Discovered by two of the York Society's members, Norrell ispersuaded to move to London to aid the government in the war againstNapoleon and to restore the practice of magic to England.

Soon, another magician appears in England- Jonathan Strange, aself-taught magician who has a natural instinct for magic. Strangeimprovises magic that Norrell has struggled to learn from his vastlibrary of books. Strange becomes Norrell's pupil, but soon thedifferences between them pushes them apart, resulting in a rivalry. Thetwo have fundamentally opposed views on the topics of Fairies, fairymagic and the mysterious Raven King. This conflict shifts the novel,resulting in a hauntingly Gothic, dark character.

Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" is filled with fascinatingcharacters, romance, adventure, nefarious villains and wonderful plotturns and twists. There is a rich history of English magic with numerousfootnotes, some of which could be complete short stories in and ofthemselves. The writing is magnificent and stylized such that you almostbelieve the book had been written in the 1800s.

This is a novel that drew me in completely and made me want to believein English magic. It is an absolute masterpiece of fantasy literatureand a book that I am sure to revisit many, many times over the years.

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