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Publisher's Summary

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

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

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 2005
  • World Fantasy Award Winner, 2005
  • Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2005

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    3,685
  • 4 Stars
    1,721
  • 3 Stars
    815
  • 2 Stars
    408
  • 1 Stars
    322

Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    3,343
  • 4 Stars
    868
  • 3 Stars
    329
  • 2 Stars
    72
  • 1 Stars
    81

Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    2,590
  • 4 Stars
    1,139
  • 3 Stars
    579
  • 2 Stars
    222
  • 1 Stars
    171
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Wyonia
  • Perry Hall, MD, USA
  • 10-17-08

WONDERFUL!

Charles Dickens writing magical realism for a modern day audience. smart and elegant with lots of dry wit and ominous, mysterious happenings.

it's worth a read for the quality of the writing alone; the enchanting plot is a bonus.

the narrator is perfectly matched to the text and gives a flawless performance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sharon D
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 09-07-08

Hard to Follow

I wasn't keen on this audiobook. I found I had to keep re-winding in order to recall what was going on in the story. There are many characters, and the plot is not well suited to an audio format. I think I will buy the hard copy of the book as I suspect I would enjoy reading the story.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Read

Love this book. It's clever, well-written, and the narrator gets it right...highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Coventry, CT, USA
  • 07-23-06

A great book

Although I noted a number of bad reviews, I downloaded this book solely based on its having won the 2005 Hugo Award. I have never been dissappointed by a Hugo or Nebula Award winning novel, and I am happy to say that this was one of the best. The question I address here is why there are so many mixed reviews, and I believe the answer lies in the slow start. The author spends a great deal of time (perhaps too much time) setting the stage, both in terms of character development and the ambience of the 1800s. I enjoyed it, but it is clear that many readers/listeners found it boring. But if you can make it through the first 8 hours, you will be rewarded with a wonderful experience. The reader is excellent, the characters have depth, the plot is sophisticated and while hard to follow, worth it. Many of the footnotes are enjoyable, and the reader handles them well and does not let them hinder the momentum. I strongly recommend this book. This novel, and American Gods, are the two best of the year for me.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nicole
  • Haxtun, CO, USA
  • 08-17-05

One of my worst listens

This book was painfully slow, and the characters/storyline were very boring. One of the few books that I couldn't finish.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Engrossing

This is Harry Potter for adults, but much, much better. This book was a labor of love for the author, taking 10 years to write. This really shows in the depth of the characterization and richness in the historical details, both real and imaginary. In JS&MN, Clarke created a parallel Regency England where the only difference to the real thing is the presence of magic. As I've always like fantasy novels with strong ties to reality (it makes the fantasy that much more palpable) I thoroughly enjoyed this conceit. It is rare that I feel like I learnt so much of history from a fantasy novel!

34 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Coeur d'Alene, ID, United States
  • 05-31-08

Wow.

The book itself is incredible, and the person who reads it is one of the best I've ever heard. Together it is easily the best audio book I've ever listened to. If you're a fan of any magical realm from any writer's imagination, you're going to love this book. And if you're new to this genre, this book may well ruin you for other lesser works.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strange

This is a book I read first before listening to it. I give it 5 stars because it is entirely original. It is a dark and brooding story of magic and the dread it brings to all who encounter it.

You will have no idea where the author is taking you, and that is how should be when people encounter magic.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Abby
  • Ohio
  • 03-04-05

Prepare to YAWN

I've never reviewed a book before, but this one was such a disappointment and yet received such high reviews from other listeners, I felt like someone should represent the other side of the story.

In the 4 yrs I've been with Audible I have never felt like I wanted to ask for my money back - until I listened to this book. The first two hours is a dry discussion of how there are theoretical magicians in England but a lack of practical magicians. The point was well made in the first 10 minutes - but why exhaust a subject in 10 minutes when you can beat it for 2 hours! :-) I continued to listen for another four hours thinking if so many people liked it, it HAD to get better, but my disappointment and frustration only grew. The story drags from one seemingly pointless episode to the next with characters that are so flat and lacking in virtue that they all seem to come from the same mold.

I found the narrator's tone, which is better suited to a humorous story, very distracting. I enjoy English humor and based on the reader's tone, kept anticipating the type of wit you find in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I generally don't miss subtle humor, but if it was intended by the author, it was lost on me. The footnotes are also distracting and do not always add anything to the story.

Obviously a lot of listeners have enjoyed this book. I can only recommend that you carefully listen to the sample before you spend an Audible credit on it. Personally, 6 hours was more than enough for me. I just couldn't imagine enduring the remaining 20+ hours of this book!

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great performance for such a dull story

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I spent far too much time listening to this book. If it was a paper copy, I would have done away with it.

Has Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell turned you off from other books in this genre?

Perhaps. I'm finding Neil Gaiman's latest book much more enjoyable.

Have you listened to any of Simon Prebble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but Simon Prebble is magnificent. I'd love to listen to his other works. He has an amazing range of characters' voices.

Did Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell inspire you to do anything?

Avoid books by Susanna Clarke.

Any additional comments?

Perhaps I'm just the wrong audience. This book is incredibly rich, but in the end just seemed pedantic. All of the faux footnotes worked well to create a pseudo-history of English magic, but the overall result was quite dull. One might think that a story about magic would be full of all sorts of exciting "magical" stuff, but there was too little of that in such a massively long book. And like so many stories these days, the villains get off rather easily, never suffering nearly as much as their victims had.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful