Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an epic historical fantasy. Taking place during the Napoleonic wars, the novels tells about an England where magic has completely disappeared. Magicians no longer practice magic, but study magic academically. That is until Mr. Norrell reveals himself. Unlike other English magicians, he can actually perform the spells that he studies, and he his determined to bring magic back to England. Unfortunately, the peculiar, nervous little man is not exactly what people expect to see in a magician, and when Mr. Norrell says that he wants to restore magic to England, he means that he should be its only magician. Then Jonathan Strange, a younger, more personable gentleman beginning to study magic, enters the story. Is England big enough for two very different magicians?
My summary above doesn’t do this book justice. Certainly one of the biggest themes of the book is the relationship between the two main characters (as anyone who has seen the title could probably guess) but it’s about so much more. It’s an exciting adventure novel about magical battles in the Napoleonic war. It’s a comedy of manners that satirizes class relations in England. It’s a magical story that tells about wicked fairies whisking away humans to their realms. It possesses extensive footnotes which creates a giant historical backdrop for a magical England. It’s also not just Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’s story. Side characters often step in and take control of the narrative, my favorites being the proper servant Stephen Black, the wicked Gentlemen with the Thistledown Hair, and Mr. Norrell’s servant Childermass. Written in the style of a Victorian novel, this book is just bursting with characters and content. Susanna Clark has created a rich world that, despite its magical atmosphere, feels just as real as our own.
I highly recommend that anyone who wants to read this book goes for the audiobook. Simon Prebble does a fantastic job creating the voices of the different characters. I’m honestly not sure that I would enjoy this book as much if it was not for his narration.
Rating: five out of five stars
Length: the print version is 1024 pages
TBR Pile: 152 books
Similar Books: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (reviewed here) is also a historical fantasy book that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. For dueling magicians, try The Prestige by Christopher Priest. For a magical story that feels very “English,” go with the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
Other books I've read by this author: Nothing!
At the moment I’m listening to the audiobook of Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire and reading the fifth Buffy Omnibus (graphic novel). So far, I find that I’m disappointed with both, which is really strange for me! I’m trying not to be too judgmental about Son of a Witch. I did not enjoy the beginnings of Wicked of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and I ended up loving both.
I also just finished reading a book for school about web design. I’m debating over whether I should post a review for it or not.
xposted to temporaryworlds and bookish