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.
*May Contain Spoilers*
After a month of juggling this book with many others, I can finally say that I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Clarke writes an intricate story, where all characters play a part, about English magic and how it is brought back to life. The two main characters are, you guessed it, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Though, there are some wonderful minor characters who captured my heart including Arabella Strange (wife of Jonathan) and Stephen Black.
Mr Norrell is the character the first part of the book reflects upon. It is his wish to be the only magician in England. He is incredibly stubborn, secretive, terrified of fairies, and hates The Raven King (the nameless slave who ruled England, Faerie, and other places). He isn't a very easy character to like, but he is quite humorous. Readers can connect with him based on his pursuit to be the best at what he does and his love of books. =)
Jonathan Strange comes into the story around/near part two. He is a little unbalanced, has trouble focusing on multiple tasks at once, loves his wife, is an apt pupil, and wants to share magic with the world. He is definitely more open and friendly than Norrell, but is bound to fits of madness which he creates for himself using magic. Readers will connect with him based on his courage (helping England win the war with Napoleon), his love of Arabella (though sometimes he is a bit distracted from her), and his pursuit of knowledge and first hand experience.
The plot of this book was a lovely in-depth look at the lives of the two English magicians. However, it did take more than half of it for a clear story line to emerge. After Strange and Norrell part ways, the plot evolves into a heroic journey to save three characters from the enchantment of a fairy. Though the first half was quite interesting, the second half was faster-paced and very intriguing. The only main downfall of this book was the length; it requires more than the average commitment. But I do have to say, it was definitely worth it. Such an enjoyable book filled to the covers with magic and a beautiful other-world.
Rating: 4/5 cups
(Third book in Fall Into Reading 2012 Challenge)