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A beautifully written history book. Be warned: if you go in expecting a straightforward story with a linear plot, character beats, etc - you may be disappointed. This book is full of fun footnotes, wonderful description of whimsical magic and fairy logic, and so much interesting historical concepts. After finishing this book I felt like I had some sense of what historical England felt like. But the same way you don't really learn the end of George Washington reading a history book, you may not get a satisfying ending here.
If you'd like something like that I highly suggest the television adaptation, which I hear does a good job of condensing and focusing the story here. But this does not mean this book is bad by any means. It's just a different beast.
A grand mix of historical fiction, magic, and faerie, this book is set in early 19th-century Britain. At the time, the question among theoretical magicians (those who studied magic) was, given the glorious history of magic in Britain, why was it not actually being practiced? Two magicians arise to offer their "practical" magic to the British government, to the Duke of Wellington, and to individuals, with amazing results. A huge (780+ pages), award-winning first novel. — Liz A., Southdale Library
this book was so good that i read it as slowly as i possibly could because the prospect of not having this book to read was so terrible. when i got to the last hundred pages, i abandoned it for a month. my copy was so horrifically overdue that i just returned it and waited until i could get to the bookstore. then i finished the book. when it was over, i sat and stared into space for about half an hour. i asked myself what there was, without this book. i asked myself what i would do, now that this had ended. i signed up for bookmatch. i trawled the internet for recs.
nothing is good like this book is good. there are lots of good books in the world. shakespeare, many people agree, was a good writer. i've always loved jane austen. there are hundreds of wonderful classics, and hundreds of new gems coming out each year. there are books that read like poetry and books that can make you laugh out loud in public like an idiot.
nothing is good like this book is good. not to say that it's the best book ever written, which i don't have an opinion on really because i haven't read every book ever written. but i do know that this book is special. it's different from other books. i don't think it has to be, necessarily. i think lots of other people COULD write like this (maybe not quite as well, or as seemingly effortlessly, but maybe) but they refuse to. it's like susanna clarke comes from a totally different place. she is a master. i know this book took a lot of hard work to create, but there's also something innate to the author that comes out; talent, of course, loads, but also a total uniqueness. of course i've read other stuff like that, which shocked me with uniqueness of purpose. but she combines that with the work and research, the talent, the honed technique, the wide background of references, the sophistication, the confidence, the ambition. also she's true to the time while also having a diverse cast of characters and it's so natural and well-written. it's like she tapped into the vat of pure human emotion and wrote this whole book on some sort of supernatural high. and then edited it very, very well?
reading this book made me feel like no other book had before. it was sort of a harry potter feeling. you know when you were a kid and you read harry potter? it's a little like that. but it's more, because you're older now, and because this book is older. this book is at least a thousand years old. because of all the research that went into this book, how deep it cuts, the depth of emotion it displays, the sheer realness of it all. you feel like it's real, and yet it's perfectly magical. this book makes you feel like magic is real.
susanna clarke, if you're out there, please write another book. susanna, i will read your grocery lists. i will read your motivational post-it notes. if you wrote a book that was just reviews of different vacuum cleaners, i would read that.
in conclusion, five stars. please read this book, so that i feel less alone in the world, and also for you, because you'll love it, or maybe you'll think its boring. some people think this book is boring, apparently. it did win a lot of prizes, though, so most people are on my side about this one.
I can't believe I didn't read this till now! It is pretty much a summary of all my favourite things in one, long book! Regency period, the Duke of Wellington, dry narrator, footnotes, mentions of Jane Austen's books, libraries, country mansions, England, faeries, MAGIC! Seriously. I can't recommend this enough. I hope this author writes more in the same world! I couldn't put it down. I haven't stayed up late to read in a long time.
I loved this book. I’ve read it twice and seen the television adaptation. It’s a very leisurely, almost wandering narrative. I was completely engrossed.
If you love fantasy, and you haven't read this one, you must add it to your list to read. Absolutely captivating story of what the power of magic can do, good and evil, in an alternate England. Don't miss the footnotes!!
This struck me as oddly like reading Tristram Shandy with elements of Verne's Robur the Conqueror in the first few chapters. It is formal and more long-winded than Dickens' works (paid by the word), with a dry humour. I'll have to finish it later though ... too many other books to read this week.
I came to this through watching the BBC series. I'm so glad I did both. Each takes full advantage of its format to please the viewer/reader. I'm not sure about all the Jane Austen comparisons, but I kinda get it.
Loved the self-indulgent footnotes. It makes me wish J.K. Rowling had done the same.
This book was recommended to me, and I am so happy I chose to read it. I'm not a Jane Austen fan, nor someone who reads fantasy novels, but I absolutely loved this book. The author does a fabulous job creating a robust setting for the reader and incorporating historical events to create a fiction book that is unlike any other I've read. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because I found the ending to be a bit abrupt and personally unsatisfying. But still well worth the read. I'll be sure to recommend this to others (I've heard the audiobook version of this book is quite good, too).
One of my favorites! I always mention this book if someone asks for a recommendation.
This book blends Jane Austen and Harry Potter for lots of fun.
Jane Austen meets magic and folklore. What could be better! Wonderful classical novel!
I came across this book by first watching (most of) the BBC mini series. I found it delightful to read at the same time as watching the show.
The show is fast paced and suspenseful. The book is quite different, more along the lines of Norrell's character in that it's pace is slow and thoughtful and very interested in minor details (the footnotes are a collection of mini stories).
It is one of those books like a gentle river that you glide along rather than a rushing creek full of waterfall-style cliffhangers.
I loved getting into all the details and the little stories behind the main plotline.
If you are more like Mr Strange and prefer a faster pace, try the BBC mini series.
I don't know how the author got this book published. Dry and much too long. Footnotes alone could make a short story. Full of unnecessary details.
I adored this book. I heard of it some time ago, but I didn't think I would like it, as I thought it was one of those books that splash some magic around in the real world, and that really isn't my favorite kind of fantasy. It wasn't until I read a quote from it on the Internet that I realized what this book actually was, and that I HAD to read it. Boy am I glad I did!
This book is written purposely to mimic the style of books written at the end of the 18th century/beginning of the 19th (think Jane Austen ((In truth, the style sometimes reminds me of books written earlier than that, for example the spelling of "choose" as "chuse" (a commonplace usage in the 18th century), and the use of "discover" in ways we modern English speakers find odd)). For me, that was one of the best parts. The authors keeps a lighthearted tone that made me laugh out loud several times. Then there was the setting, Early Regency England. This book is like reading a well researched and written historical fiction in which magic just happens to be real. I adore the 18th century and the periods just before and after it, so this was my kind of book. Then there are the characters! Ms. Clark is a fantastic judge of human nature, and her characters, with all their truly human eccentricities and failings had me laughing and tearing up by turns. The ending sealed it for me, though. It had me in tears, and I'm not sure I've ever read an ending so perfectly bitter sweet. For me, it fit the characters very well, and just worked, for some reason.
Once upon a time--I was the only person I knew who enjoyed this book. What a difference 10 years and one BBC mini series make. Thanks for joining me in giving this book all your love!
I am not a fan of this kind of fantasy. The conclusion was frustrating and confusing. The evil acts of the bad fairy were random and the stilted Victorian social norms under which the magicians practiced just did not jib with the spells and injunctions which underpin the plot and character development. The writing is beautiful, the descriptions of the scenes are charming and i did finish the book but it left me unsatisfied overall
I love long epic fantasy/alternative history books and this definitely fit into that! It may drag on a bit and I wish she went into more detail about some things (sequel please!), but overall I enjoyed it. The writing style is definitely fixed in the past (think Victorian era) so if you are not used to that style, it may take a while to get used to. However, the characters are interesting and I could never completely figure out which one I liked the most. Very worthwhile and enjoyable.
With great anticipation and the encouragement of other comments on this site I persisted in my read of this book. It reminds me of book 4 of Harry Potter. Very long winded without an adequate conclusion. Phrases were used repeatedly page after page. There were some pockets of beautiful literary style and imagination but these were aborted abruptly without further exploration. I mean will we ever know more about the King's Roads? This book shows the authors talent for imagination but needs more editorial guidance. I felt the marathon read was not rewarded.
Don't be dissuaded by the heft of this book. It's an amazingly imaginative adventure story that offers the kind of escape I discovered in reading as a child. I was sorry when it ended.
OK, here comes a long and a perfectly earnest one for a change.
I must say that I was thoroughly impressed by Susanna Clarke's book start to finish, even though reading it was an ambitious undertaking in the weeks following my first child's birth. I won't pretend to be too objective, then, when I say that the amazing tale of the two English magicians has in a sense become intertwined in my imagination with a very magical time of my own life.
I can see why it would be so polarizing, however, especially in a post-Harry Potter world. People hear "England and Magic" and reckon that they'll get some thrilling quidditch action and some tender insights into the joys and hurts of growing up, but that's not to be found here. Instead, we get a wonderful and at times whimsical mash up of classic Regency-era literature (like Pride and Prejudice or Vanity Fair) with modern-day magical realism along the lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude or Midnight's Children.
The huge page count, the interminable footnotes (many of which, incidentally, are more amusing and creative than the main story they append), the coy affectation of period spellings like "shew" or "surprize"...in a lesser book, these seeming indulgences would be infuriating, but the way they are employed by the author was brilliant, they just drew you in even further. Also, it becomes apparent only over many many pages that this is not just a work of alt-historical fiction, positing strange events during a time and at a place well known to most readers of English Lit, but a sly redesign of English history to render a fantasy setting at the same time familiar as it is uncanny. Well known figures from the period such as King George III (the "mad" one), the Duke of Wellington and even Lord Byron play active parts as well as Ms. Clarke's beautifully rendered duo and their assorted friends, foes and contemporaries.
Was it absolute perfection? Of course not. But a tour-de-force, and a unique, humorous, and moving reading experience start-to-finish that I cannot recommend highly enough to those with the patience and the time to devote to it.
This is exactly my kind of book - magicians in England in the early 1800's ! But the author was almost too faithful to the writing style of the time in which she set her book. The first 50 pages were full of dry dialog, not much description, and not much action. I regret to say that I gave up.
Definitely a nice mix of Harry Potter meets Charles Dickens. / Jane Austen. An authentic Victorian world with magic... and enough academia to keep it feeling 'intelligent'... although, after awhile, the footnotes lost their novelty.
Magic is not usually something I am interesting in, but Clarke really sets a mood. i wanted the 'raven king' and english magic to really exist.
it's true, i didn't want it to end. and it's one thousand pages! but i heard she's writing another one set in the same world. yay!
The world portrayed is unique, detailed and immersive. I love this book so much that I will buy every second hand copy I find to re-home with a new reader.
An absolutely beautiful, dark read.
Great book! Best described as " Harry Potter for adults ". Despite its length I found this to be quite a fast read.