Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Cover

Long But Worth the Time


There was a distinct point where I began to love this novel. I couldn't say exactly where in the 1024-page count it was, but I think it was when I realized that the history of English magical legend and mythology was entirely fabricated by author Susanna Clarke. That history is so rich and hints so well at further richness that I almost couldn't be convinced that it was an invention of Clarke. This version of England is almost as detailed as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, without being bogged down in a faux-recapitulation of that history. The elements of Clarke’s world’s history are revealed only as becomes necessary to the plot.

And the plot — what a plot it is. For a while it revolves around a small group of seemingly insignificant people, and even the events around them appear largely unimportant. The backdrop of the Napoleanic Wars distracts the reader from the slow burn that's happening right in front of his nose. Something terrible is happening in the land of Faerie, and its effects are beginning to leak into Victorian England.

My only real complaint is the low quality of the illustrations. They are suitably gothic, but feel like studies for more complete drawings. An inked finish would have been more appropriate.