Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
Historical fantasy / Standalone
“I mean that two of any thing is a most uncomfortable number. One may do as he pleases. Six may get along well enough. But two must always struggle for mastery. Two must always watch each other. The eyes of all the world will be on two, uncertain which of them to follow.”
Hundreds of years have passed since the decline of English magic, which is believed to be gone now. Everything changes one day in the early 1800s when the secluded, antisocial Mr. Norrell shocks a group of scholars with a display of magic that catapults him to fame as the only magician in England. When he finds a protégé in the younger and more charming Jonathan Strange, the two form an uneasy friendship and mentorship. But their partnership is threatened by Strange’s interest in faerie magic, more dangerous and volatile than what Norrell purports to practice, and by the dark forces that the return of magic to England has unleashed…
I’m sure everyone has already heard a lot about this much-loved book set during Napoleonic Wars. I will add my words of praise: this is a really wonderful and unique book. It’s like Jane Austen with dark magic, the characters often trading witty and barbed remarks through a veil of excessive politeness. It’s both laugh out loud funny and desperately creepy, sometimes almost simultaneously. And it’s incredibly quaint, with the occasional bit of old English spelling dropped in, all while being suffused with the darkness and eeriness of the book’s system of magic.