Magic and Evil in Regency England

Take one part Gothic Horror, one part Jane Austen, and one part JRR Tolkien (all of his work, not just the Middle Earth stuff) and you get 2004’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Finally, after eleven years and an aborted movie, it’s coming to the BBC in May. (And, one hopes, soon to BBC America.)

Set during the Napoleonic War, the novel is a tale about the last two real magicians in Britain, as well as the return of the great magics of old. Beware: what the story seems to be about is but the upper layer, and what is really happening is only hinted at. Suffice to say that, no matter their own personal ambitions, the two men are caught up in great events beyond their ken.

It’s one of my favorite fantasy novels (despite the pretentiousness with which it was sold, shelved as “literature”, not mere “fantasy”) and includes alternate history, the hidden realm of Faerie, pocket dimensions, magic, and that tantalizing mystique truly great fantasy authors weave into their work, to where each detail isn’t just itself, but hints at something more.

A great read, and well worth your time. I can only hope the 7 episode series lives up to the book.

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