Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

 “Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic.”

It is the early 19th Century in England, and sadly for a country one renowned for its magicians, magic has all but disappeared. Modern magicians may read and write about magic but no one actually practices it anymore, and worse, no one knows why or how this happened. But a change is coming.

“Two magicians shall appear in England…
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand…”

Enter Mr. Norrell: Stodgy, peculiar and paranoid, and determined to singlehandedly restore magic to England. He has been collecting rare books of magic for years, and believes he has reached the point in his studies that he is ready to make his mark. In hist first public feat, Mr. Norrell raises a young woman from the dead and soon finds himself recruited by cabinet to assist in fighting and winning the Napoleonic wars.

“It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week.”

But the arrogant Mr. Norrell is not prepared for what happens next. He is not the only magician in England. Enter Mr. Strange. A rich young gentleman in search of a hobby, Jonathan Strange decides to take up magic – and he has far more natural talent for it than the learned Mr. Norrell could ever hope for. Thus begins a competition that will change English magic forever.

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange.
Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could.”

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of many magical novels to hit the shelves in the past decade, but in my opinion, it is among the best. At more than 800 pages, it is not for the faint of heart, but if fantasy is your thing, those 800 pages will fly by in a blur of spells, resurrections and faerie visits. Clarke’s humour is infectious, her characters are witty and amusing. This is one magical tome that is definitely worth the investment of your time.

Hardcover: 800 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 8, 2004)
ISBN-10: 1582344167
ISBN-13: 978-1582344164

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