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 pupil, 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. (*)
Amidst of it all, there is one ancient shadowy figure known to be the greatest magician of all, a human child taken into Faerie and later on was hailed king of both Faerie and England, mostly known as the Raven King, whom Strange was deeply fascinated of and his heedless pursuit to the long forgotten old magic could be his undoing.
Where do I start with this book? It feels so larger than life and not something to be equated on a five-paragraph review. Well, first, it could be a tedious read for some (imagine reading a historical academic textbook with footnotes) with a douse of magic and philosophy. The melancholic tones of the story brings out that certain eeriness and spookiness of dark and unknown magic. Just like Strange's fascination to the Raven King, I have become more curious of him, too, and the realm of fairies as the pages went.
But truth to tell, Clarke does not show us the bright and ethereal quality of magic but of its trickery and bargains and raw unnaturalness. You'd be afraid to delve into the magical realm and for a moment be chilled to dare meet the Raven King. I am amazed how the author draws the readers into this world and sort of rattles our bones. Indeed, some things are better off left alone.
Another thing not to be missed are the rather amusing conversations and troubles between Mr. Norrell and Mr. Strange. Two characters couldn't be more opposite and the dashing wit and quick put-downs between them adds flavor to the bleakness of the setting. The book is one big tale, and a high tale perhaps, but definitely a must-read in our lifetime. There are some books that are terrible that it just shatter us. This book is one of them.
The book hovered over my head for a number of days after I finished it. From time to time, whenever I hear a bell tolling now, I keep remembering this book and wonder if a faerie will appear before me to fetch me to his fantasy world of old castles and people dancing in balls and hallways that seemed to go on and on. The thought is just terrible but goes to show the lingering notion of the story.
Title: "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell"
Author: Susanna Clarke
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Faerie
Published: 2004 Hardcover
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Rating: ♨♨♨♨♨ (5 cups: An eerie read and a bit burdensome but the charm of this book is that it lets you drift your thoughts into another world and before you know it, you are having goosebumps.)