Fiction/Fantasy, Copyright 2004
Bloomsbury hardback, 780 p.
WINNER - Hugo Award: Best Novel 2005; Shortlist - Whitbread Award: First Novel 2004; Longlist - Man Booker Prize 2004
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me...
Centuries ago when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of them all was the Raven King. A human child brought up by fairies, the Raven King blended fairy wisdom and human reason to create English magic. Now at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer believes in practical magic. Then the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey appears and causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. News spreads of the return of magic to England and, persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, Mr Norrell goes to London. There he meets a brilliant young magician and takes him as a pupil. Jonathan Strange is charming, rich and arrogant. Together, they dazzle the country with their feats. But the partnership soon turns to rivalry. Mr Norrell has never conquered his lifelong habits of secrecy, while Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous magic.It was certainly long (and heavy!), and hardly action-packed like the Harry Potter books to which it’s been compared, but it was still a very captivating read. Set in an alternate 19th c. England during the Napoleonic wars, what an imaginative, original story Clarke has created! Witty too:
For a while he had tried to persuade the other Ministers that they should commission Mr Beckford, Mr Lewis and Mrs Radcliffe to create dreams of vivid horror that Mr Norrell could then pop into Buonaparte’s head. But the other Ministers considered that to employ a magician was one thing, novelists were quite another and they would not stoop to it.” (p. 245)The illustrations were fun, but then I love illustrations. And I LOVED the footnotes. I never found them distracting and they really added to the story, making me believe there really was a long history of English magic.
Book-murder was a late addition to English magical law. The wilful destruction of a book of magic merited the same punishment as the murder of a Christian. (Footnote p. 314)A fun read. I’ve already ordered The Ladies of Grace Adieu so I’m looking forward to reading those stories sometime soon as well.
“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.”Interview with Susanna Clarke.
My Rating: 4/5
(Book #12 for 2007; Book #2 for the Chunkster Challenge; Book #2 for the TBR Challenge)