'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow a delight to read, both for the elegant and precise use of words, which Ms Clarke deploys as wisely and dangerously as Wellington once deployed his troops, and for the vast sweep of the story, as tangled and twisting as old London streets or dark English woods. It is a huge book, filled with people it is a delight to meet, and incidents and places one wishes to revisit, which is, from beginning to end, a perfect pleasure. Closing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell after 800 pages my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length.' NEIL GAIMAN
Praise for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
?I found it absolutely compelling. The narrative drive is irresistible and I could not stop reading until I had finished it. The narrator's tone is beautifully judged. It's full of wonderfully deadpan humour and its reticence leaves the reader to make up his or her mind about the characters. I loved all the invented scholarship and was fascinated by the mixture of historical realism and utterly fantastic events. I almost began to believe that there really was a tradition of "English magic" that I had not heard about. The author captures the period and its literary conventions with complete conviction. And a large part of the fun is seeing how an early nineteenth century novel copes with the impact of magic. It's an astonishing achievement. I can't think of anything that is remotely like it.? CHARLES PALLISER
'A chimera of a novel that combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien...
Clarke is an extremely funny writer, which is rare in fantasy ... But what really sets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell apart is its treatment of magic. Clarke's magic is a melancholy, macabre thing, confabulated out of snow and rain and mirrors and described with absolute realism ... Clarke has another rare faculty: she can depict evil ... [she] reaches down into fantasy's deep, dark, twisted roots, down into medieval history and the scary, Freudian fairy-tale stuff. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell reminds us that there's a reason fantasy endures: it's the language of our dreams. And our nightmares.'
'This 800-page work of fantasy think Harry Potter sprinkled with the dust of Tolkien and Alasdair Gray - posits an extraordinary alternative history of England where magic, fairies, spirits and enchantments were once part of everyday life ... the book darkens as rapidly as the sky on a wintry English day, becoming an increasingly bleak meditation on professional envy, betrayal, revenge, madness and despair. The spells, visions and enchantments, once sources of wonder and amazement, become infernal nightmares instead. This incredible work of the imagination, which took Clarke more than 10 years to write, ends all too soon. Perfectly balanced between outlandish fantasy and richly detailed historical reality, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell deserves to be welcomed into the modern literary canon, not just the bookshelves of fantasy geeks. It's pure magic.' NEW YORK POST
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'Clarke's novel, I'm pleased to say, just about deserves the fuss ... her imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty ... With a cheery tone, Clarke welcomes herself into an exalted company of British writers - not only, some might argue, Dickens and Austen, but also the fantasy legends Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald as well as contemporary writers like Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman. Aging fans of T. H. White and young Turks who idolize Neil Gaiman will find much to their liking here, too. Clarke is generous in her homages. Obligatory nods are made to the notion of rings of power and books of spells ... It's clear that Clarke's library of books about magic rivals Mr. Norrell's ...
What keeps this densely realized confection aloft is that very quality of reverence to the writers of the past. The chief character in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell isn't, in fact, either of the magicians: it's the library that they both adore, the books they consult and write and, in a sense, become. Clarke's giddiness comes from finding a way at once to enter the company of her literary heroes, to pay them homage and to add to the literature, to slot this big fat book into our own libraries of spells. In this fantasy, the master that magic serves is reverence for writing.
As a fantasy writer myself, I'm inclined to overlook Clarke's excesses. Happily, she has the courage to poke fun at her own enterprise. ''He picks up a book and begins to read,'' she writes at one point, ''but he is not attending to what he reads and he has got to Page 22 before he discovers it is a novel the sort of work which above all others he most despises - and he puts it down in disgust.'' Elsewhere she observes: ''Dear Emma does not waste her energies upon novels like other young women.'' Many charmed readers will feel, as I do, that Susanna Clarke has wasted neither her energies nor our many reading hours.' NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF BOOKS
'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is at heart a book about the present's relationship to the past. In its pages Clarke takes the accepted fabric of English culture and inserts just a single new thread: that during the Renaissance, magic actually worked...What makes the novel so impressive, however, is Susanna Clarke's flair for pastiche and her astonishing explanatory footnotes ... Over the course of nearly 800 pages Clarke channels the world of Jane Austen, the Gothic tale, the Silver-Fork Society novel, military adventure à la Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O'Brian, romantic Byronism and Walter Scott's passion for the heroic Northern past. She orchestrates all these fictive elements cons