My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 2 days
Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages - 1006
Blurb from Goodreads
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.
The book is set in and around 1800s, in an altered version of England about two magicians, Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange. A group of theoretical magicians often meet up and discuss magic but no one ever practises it any more, apart from Mr Norrell. The magicians reach out to him to get him to show that practical magic can be done, debating whether it should or should not be done. What follows is Mr Norrell being the only practical magician until Mr Strange comes along. The magicians each contribute to efforts in the war and make a name for themselves whilst initially working together in partnership then veering away from each other. The magicians could not be more different in their attitude to magic, personal approach and outlook. Their relationship breaks down and everything they hold dear close is at risk.
This is a very well written debut novel, the world Clarke creates with spells and enchanted stories is spectacular. There is a lot of footnotes throughout the novel, if the characters refer to a story or a person a footnote usually follows. Some spread over a page or two, sometimes longer and whilst they were really interesting different stories or explanations I did find them quite distracting after a while.
The magic that is performed is impressive and would be wonderful to see on the big screen. The characters are so well carved out you get a good feel and impression, very early on. Throughout the book there is also quite a few drawings which I thought was a wonderful touch and I haven't seen anything like that before. Overall a good read, albeit I honestly felt had there been so many different stories within the footnotes that were good but had more time been invested with Mr Norrell & Mr Strange it would have been more than a three star for me. I would love this author to do a follow up novel to see what the magicians are doing now and how their story unfolded. 3/5 for me and I would definitely read a follow up if she ever created one.