Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

imageThe epic magic and fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, by Suasanna Clark Has been adapted for Television By the BBC, so I thought I would read the original novel. It is set In nineteenth-century England amidst the Nepoleonic Wars. It starts after a reclusive practicing Magician named Mr Gilbert Norrell, is approached by The Learned Society of York Magicians, made up of “theoretical magicians” who believe that magic died out several hundred years earlier, who ask him to perform a feat of Magic. So Norrell proves his skill as a practicing magician by bringing the statues in York Cathedral to life.John Childermass, Mr Norrell’s long-time servant, convinces a member of the group, John Segundus, to write about the event for the London newspapers making Mr Norrell a celebrity overnight. Then he brings the deceased bride of Cabinet Minister Sir Walter Pole, Emma Winterdown, back from the dead, by summoning a faerie, however he pays a heavy price and later this has terrible consequences.

After news spreads of Emma’s resurrection and happy marriage to Sir Walter, magic becomes respectable and Mr Norrell performs various feats to aid the government in their ongoing war against Napoleon. Then While living in London, Mr Norrell encounters A street-magician, named Vinculus who relates a prophecy about a nameless slave and two magicians in England, but Norrell ignores it.

Meanwhile another Magician from Shropshire named Jonathan Strange turns up, he also encounters Vinculus who tells him the same prophecy prompting Strange to become a Magician and he becomes Mr Norrell’s Apprentice. They join forces in the war against France. However despite Norrell’s warnings Strange is drawn to the darker and more dangerous forms of Magic and learns about John Uskglass, the legendary Raven King a medieval lord-magician of the North of England. So he pursues his desire to summon a faerie servant to the edge of madness. Meanwhile, a mysterious gentleman with thistle-down hair takes a liking to Stephen Black, Sir Walter’s capable black butler, and promises to make him a king. Meanwhile Emma (now Lady Pole) becomes mysteriously unwell, but the cause of her condition confounds every Doctor and Mr Norrell states that her problems cannot be solved by magic either. Unbeknownst to anyone Lady Pole and Stephen Black have been bewitched by the mysterious gentleman with Thistle-Down Hair, who turns out to be a Faerie and must spend each night Dancing at Costumed Balls held at the Faerie Kingdom of Lost Hope as part of the bargain they made.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell later disagree about the importance that John Uskglass (the legendary Raven King) has in English magic. Meanwhile Lady Pole and Strange’s wife, Arabella, soon become friends and Arabella also meets the gentleman with thistle-down hair at the Poles’ who deviously plots to enchant her too. Later the Government Send Strange to assist the Duke of Wellington on his Peninsular Campaign, and he creates roads, moves towns, and makes dead men speak. After he returns, he fails to cure George III’s madness, although Strange manages to save the king from becoming enchanted by the gentleman with thistle-down hair, who is determined to make Stephen a king. Strange then helps defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and then parts company with Norrell and returns home and works on his own book, The History and Practice of English Magic. Then Arabella goes missing, and dies shortly after being found sick and weak. Then an increasingly deranged Lady Pole attempts to shoot Mr Norrell as he is returning home but the bullet hits Childermass instead. She is taken for respite in the country where she is cared for by John Segundus, who suspects sinister magical forces are at work. Whilst travelling North Stephen meets Vinculus, who again recites his prophecy: “the nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country …”

Strange moves to Venice and meets Flora. Then after experimenting with dangerous magic to gain access to Faerie he discovers that Arabella is alive and being held captive by the Mysterious Man with Thistle-Down hair at the Faerie Kingdom of Lost Hope and is then cursed with Eternal Night, an eerie darkness that engulfs him and follows him wherever he goes. He decides to rescue Arabella however this takes a heavy toll on him. On Strange’s orders, Flora moves with her family to Padua and secludes herself inside her home, along with a mirror given to her by Strange. In England,John Uskglass returns sparking a magical renaissance. Strange and Childermass then endeavour to free Lady Pole from the faerie’s enchantment and asks Norrell to help him undo Arabella’s enchantment by summoning John Uskglass. Sadly this does not go to plan and Norrell and Strange find themselves trapped in “Eternal Night,” and unable to move more than a certain distance from each other. Meanwhile Arabella tries to escape her enchantment and Stephen confronts the mysterious gentleman with thistle-down hair…..

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