This book is a bit older than the other two I’ve previewed so far. It was written in 2004. Nothing wrong with an old book, particularly an old book that has done so well for itself it’s become a TV series!
This is one of my boyfriend’s favorite books, and while waiting for him last week I decided to pick it off his shelf and start reading. He’s offered it to me before, but then rescinded that offer when I moaned about how much thesis work I still had to do…but he couldn’t stop me this time.
Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke’s magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.
English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.
But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.
All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange’s heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Characters: So far, the characters are pretty interesting. I’m only about twenty pages in, so there’s not a huge deal that I know about them yet, but it’s all rather interesting. The titular Mr. Norrel is a magician that is actually practicing magic, a rarity in England at the time.
Plot: I’m probably getting this all wrong, but it has to do with the fact that those who call themselves “magicians” aren’t really practicing magic any more. That all changes when a few eager youths declare themselves to have found someone who actually does still practice magic, and the man (Mr. Strange himself) makes a bet with the entirety of the York Magicians, where if he can really do magic, they will relinquish the title of magician forever. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, but I will say it very much intrigues me and I am looking forward to having some time to settle down and finish this. (Of course, I’ll probably have to finish Children of Blood and Bone first…That one shouldn’t be too hard.)
Writing: The writing is that modern interpretation of olden days writing. Even though it was written in 2004, it reads almost like an Austen novel, or maybe even something a little older. This makes it a bit difficult to catch on at first, but as you get more into the book itself, you start figuring out what everything means. I love books that have that old-timey feel to them, so this seems like it’s going to be right up my alley!
Prediction: I feel like if I put something here that doesn’t go with Steven’s interpretation of the book, I’m going to be gutted when I talk to him again. However, from what I’ve seen so far, this book is shaping up to be a 4-star or higher in the ratings department. I have absolutely no idea where the plot is going to go, but considering the fact that the book itself is over 800 pages long, I am very interested indeed.
Have you read this novel? Any suggestions for me, or anything I should watch out for? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.
First Impression Friday was started by JW Martin @ Storeys of Stories
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