England! In the era of the Napoleanic wars. A fertile field for fiction, yadda, yadda, I’ve done this rant before, in a way. Instead of dragons though, this book splits with reality by making magic a historical fact.
Up until the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, magic was an important part of English governance, but by the time of this book it has fallen into neglect. There hasn’t been an actual, practicing magician for centuries, and apart from various small groups of theoretical magicians and history buffs, people consider magic to be folklore and superstition.
Then Mister Norrell shows up. He’s spent most of his life collecting and studying old books of magic, and he’s just had a breakthrough: he’s figured out how to actually cast these old spells. After that, things get complicated.
It’s a fun book, but a bit daunting at times. The pacing is a bit deliberate at times – for example, Johnathan Strange doesn’t even show up until well into the book. It was written in the style of the novels of that era, and is peppered with footnotes and references to other books that don’t actually exist. Still, if that doesn’t bother you it’s well worth reading.
Total page count: 8668