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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

To celebrate the recent BBC adaptation of this wonderful book, I’m republishing a review I wrote some years ago. If you didn’t see the series — or even if you did — read the book!

A sumptuous tale of magic and bitter rivalry between master and pupil. When Mr Norrell bids the statues at York Minster to speak, he becomes the first man to practise magic in England in over 200 years. He’s learned his craft from books and buys up every magical text in the land to ensure no one can follow in his footsteps. But Jonathan Strange shows an intuitive talent for magic, and Mr Norrell decides to take him on as his pupil.

Before long Jonathan Strange is testing his magical skills in the Napoleonic Wars under Lord Wellington. But Strange and Norrell disagree about the dangers of summoning powerful magical forces…

Susanna Clarke’s wry narration conjures up a world of politics and petty rivalries, of passageways through mirrors, of bewitched dancers and wanton Faery kings. I take back everything I said about big books: this is a dazzling read. 5 stars

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