Tim Lewis, September 26, 2011 (view all comments by Tim Lewis)
I was enamored with this book. Set in the early 19th century, this historical alternative fictional fantasy felt like it was written during the 19th century with masterful writing and incredibly vivid characters. This is a story of professional magicians who study magic like it is history or any other everyday subject who then come to the aid of the government to fight Napoleon, using mirrors as secret passages and fog shaped like ships. With twists and turns and language that felt like a full meal instead of elementary milk like too many other books out there, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell had me wanting more all the way to the very end. In order to read this you must be prepared to invest some time and energy and be prepared to be immersed in a world of faeries and whimsical yet serious magic. Stramge & Norrell is full of wonderful language for seasoned readers to chew on. I felt like I was there with the characters and that this could have happened during the Napoleonic wars. Do yourself a favor and read this book now. It revived my love for fantasy and for reading in general.
I'd read glowing reviews of this book, but I hesitated for a long time due to the fact that it's fantasy, which is not my genre. Finally, I gave in and bought it - and am I glad I did! Clarke sets her novel in the early years of the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, and even uses the spelling of that time. The story follows the title characters, two magicians (in Clarke's fantasy world, being a magician is a profession like any other) who are, at first, master and student, then rivals. The book is filled with fictional footnotes, and juggles multiple story threads with ease. The characters are human and flawed; the situations are fascinating; the names have a distinct ring of Dickens. As a matter of fact, if Dickens had written fantasy, it might well have been something like this.
PERSEUS DISTRIBUTION -
A fantasy book of manners? Yes, and it works! Original and clever, this lush novel comments on the society and culture of magic. Strange and Norrell have opposing viewpoints on magic's role, and their clash provides a fabulous backdrop for this wonderful book. Just read it! It's great.
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