Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Superb novel – a huge (1,000pp), fantastic fantasy tale which tells the story of two men’s attempts to bring back magic back to England in the early 19th century. It’s set in an England where great magicians had ruled for hundreds of years, before losing the ability to do practical magic, and there are two forms of magician – gentlemen who study the history of spells and those whose could cast them and dirty street conjurers. Mr Norrell astounds a group of the former by managing to do some real magic, and then sets out to offer his services to the nation. He is limited by his own timidity, a trait which doesn’t affect the second practical magician to emerge: Jonathan Strange. He quickly proves adept at solving problems with magic, but doesn’t think too seriously about the consequences of his actions.

It’s steeped in proper fairy lore and crackles with wonderful imagery and language and the plot leaps from twist to twist. Characters come, go and come back again. It all builds to an exciting climax where the forces unleashed on the world have to be faced by the two magicians… it’s a splendid read, magic in the proper sense of the word.

See also:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare. Another fairy tale.

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett. Another other fairy tale. Fairly similar to the one above.

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