But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr. Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.
All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative, the very opposite of Mr. Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr. Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr. Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that 32 hours leave readers longing for more.
©2004 Susanna Clarke; (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, and Bloomsbury Publishing
"A smashing success....An exceptionally compelling, brilliantly creative, and historically fine-tuned piece of work." (Booklist)
"Extraordinary....Immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor, and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ravishing...superb...combines the dark mythology of fantasy with the delicious social comedy of Jane Austen into a masterpiece of the genre that rivals Tolkien." (Time)
"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." (The New York Times Book Review)
the last 4 hours are worth the whole listen. The book sounded as if it were written by a contemporary of dickens. It sweeps you away into the world of Magical Gentlemen.
I've been listening to books for less than a year now, but I think it'll be tough to beat this one. The virtual England created by Ms. Clarke is perfectly realized, richly described. The characters are all fascinating and believable. And this is the first book I've listened to where I think I may have enjoyed the experience even more than if I had actually read it. Simon Prebble deserves the audible equivalent of an oscar for his performance. 30 hours was too short!
I usually am pretty forgiving with reviews but this one was painful to get through. It is filled with side comments and fictional historical accounts that add little to the story. This was a real chore to finish. If the book was edited down to a 1/4 of it's size it would be much better.
This novel is a very pleasant surprise. It starts slow to establish the world of 1800's London, and the way of speaking took a bit to get used to, but this groundwork was soon appreciated when the novel takes off and doesn't stop until the last pages. This is a tale of old English magic, no wands here but the world does have the beautiful appearance with strange and terrible things lying in wait just under the surface. Once magic is actually practiced after a few hours of reading, the book hooks the reader and pulls them into a world of dualing magicians, war with Napoleon and a hidden Faerie realm with terrible secrets and dark kings. I only wish there was more I could read on this alternative English history, magic integrated into the world as an open profession and the affects throughout society is a concept I hadn't seen before, but the author does an incredible job with it.
I enjoyed this novel and found the narrator did a good job capturing the characters. Clarke created an interesting world of magic and fairies and managed to weave in some solid history. At times, the plot got a bit too intricate though. I listened to the entire book and enjoyed it, but I've certainly listened to some I enjoyed more (but when you compare everything to Ken Follet and Byrce Courtenay, most everything else will be lacking). If you're looking for a decent listen and don't expect to be blown away, this one is worth a credit.
verrry sloww start, like the first half of the book at least, but ends well and while the first part was painfull to get through, the information gained there, and the feel you get for the characters makes the journey worth it. it's like struggling up a mountain on a shadowed trail and bursting onto a sunlit view of the valley below. the endorfins are coarsing through your veins, you feel great, and it's all down hill ahead.
This book was presented to me as the next Harry Potter. At first I was turned off to the book because it isn't really like Potter at all.
...it's something else. It's hard to pin down really. It has elements of fantasy (magic, duh). It has elements of historical fiction. It has elements of epic fantasy in the fact that the number of characters, their depth, and the richness of the world she has created around them easily lends itself to a series.
Yet, it's not any of those things. It's...a good, deep read. It's so laden with detail that I've actually read (listened and read actually)it three times now and I get something more each time.
Of course it doesn't hurt a bit that Simon Prebble could probably make a phone book sound interesting. But that's just a bonus. The core material is like a good steak. You want to savor each bite and when its over you feel a bit like you've lost something.
Great book if you like thick, atmospheric prose.
This is excellent narration and the skeleton of a master story with master writing is there - but it is just not fully fleshed out. Those who enjoy literary books and excellent narration should spend a credit on this but do not expect perfection. Instead there are glimpses and hints of those moments I know I crave where the story has finally turned a corner and you are fully involved, ready to go wherever the author takes you because the author has earned your trust. But this book has too many false starts too many lulls between the brilliant passages and the wonderful, if minimally used, mixing of historical fiction into the story. Its about magic the way the movie "The Prestige" is about magic, that is, it is a central point to be sure but also, somehow, ancillary.
Any book that can be this long and still keep you going certainly has qualities, and this one has many, I was just hoping for a bit more pacing and a better use of such intriguing characters as Clarke created.
I am not an elegant writer and probably will not express myself as I mean to. however, I enjoyed this novel very much. Susanna Clarke is a very polished word smith. Nothing in what she writes is forced, it all flows as a wonderful story. Parts are less interesting to *me* personally, but that has to do with personal taste. In general I thought the novel very humorous and with the exception of her failing to properly explain why a certain faerie should happen to so suddenly decide to ruin people's lives in England, although he had certainly existed for a very long time, the plot was well developed. There were also many loose ends which made me think a sequel was in order ... or maybe the author was just leaving room for one's own imagination. That is not my favorite strategy, because I think (alas) the author's imagination must be quite more vivid than my own at this stage in my adult life. So naturally, I want the loose ends sown up. Does Stephen ever get together with the Mrs. Brandy, and what happens with the gold she found? Ah well, maybe I slept through that part.
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