Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book 16: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

In a recent book swap with one of the pharmacist from work, I had the pleasure to read the book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This fantasy is unlike a lot of books written in English and in the fantasy realm.

So this book was not the easiest book to read at times. It’s incredibly dense in the 846 page novel and includes hundreds of footnotes. Yes footnotes to a fantasy story and these footnotes weren’t translations of foreign languages that are real or unreal. These were full fledge footnotes that were citing magical books and adding layer upon layer of the mythology of the book.

But I loved the tale of two magicians trying to bring magic back to England and after successfully doing that, they worked together to help defeat Napoleon and then had to worry about fairy magic as well.

The characters are not the typical heroes. They aren’t really the most sympathetic especially Mr. Norrell and his associates. They did some really shady things and would do anything to maintain their power over magic and the ability to get knowledge about magic. Mr. Norrell was a downright hypocrite by being anti-fairy magic but his greatest claim to fame before the end of the book was due to help by a magic. Jonathan Strange was much more likable until the death of his wife. But he had his flaws just like all people do. They aren’t all good and all evil. There’s a lot of gray which creates richer characters.

There is a formality about this book that I’ve never really seen in the fantasy/sci-fi/occult genre. Many of the characters are referred to by Mr. or Mrs. ______. Plus it had a feel of a textbook in some ways too. It was more then just the footnotes and the use of the formal titles. At times it would have the tone of a textbook but then it would casually go back into a more casual narrative.

I ended up enjoying this book. There were times where it was really dry. But then at others it was so magical that I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

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