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Harry Vaz "Harry Vaz"

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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth sticking with, 16 April 2010
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell doesn't begin with much of bang, but its is worth sticking with for it one of the best books I've ever read. It begins with the character of Mr Norrell, who is a boring and tiresome character, and hence the book's initial volume struggles to excite. Indeed, I almost gave up on it (first volume is 250 pages!)but am so glad that I didn't. The introduction of Jonathon Strange - Norrell's dynamic, amiable protege - gives the narrative a whole new dimension, with the plot cranking up in speed and before you know it you can't put this book down. The world the author creates becomes ever more fascinating, as Strange, unlike Norrell, seeks to explore his world further and what a wonderful world it is. The author mixes the factual world of 1800s Britain with sprinklings of fantasy as Strange and Norrell study magic as though it were a profession like any other, such as law or medicine or politics. Strange enters the war between Washington and Napoleon, the social scene of upper class London and the unexplored world of fairy, pulling Norrell unwittingly along with him and putting their lives, and that of Strange's wife, in jeopardy.

So with all that said, its a challenge to identify what type of book this is. It has the feel of a Victorian novel, yet also it is is also part of the fairy tale genre that the likes of Neil Gaiman have done so well with. It is about the conflict between two good men who come from two different extremes, and how they both deal with the success their profession brings to them. It's also about the telling of a classic fairy tale - not the modern fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after, but the original ones where sometimes Red Riding Hood gets eaten up and Hansel and Gretel find themselves in hot water.

If you can keep an open mind and persevere through the opening volume, then there's a good chance you will love this book. However, if the idea of mixing fairies and magicians in with the realism of 1800s Britain doesn't sit well with you, or if you would struggle to find the patience to wait 250 pages for the book to get going, them maybe this isn't for you. But I've got to say that having started of hating the book, at the end I found myself loathing the idea of putting it down. It has a certain charm that gradually takes hold and then refuses to let go. The author has created an endearing, original and classic novel that is worth a look, and is easily in my top three books of all time.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle): 1
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle): 1
by Patrick Rothfuss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

177 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and engaging, 29 Mar. 2010
This book really surprised me. Entirely gripping, well written and original. Mixes the world of fairy tales with modern day fantasy. It's a love story, a coming of age tale, and an epic novel. The end leaves the reader with many questions left unanswered, and that in part is the power of this book. As you read, you are always seeking to know more, to understand who Kvote is and how he has come to be in the role of simple pub landlord. Everytime you get more information, further questions arise as the author skillfully teases and pulls the reader along a rollercoaster of a journey.

Looking back at the book, there actually weren't any adventures I'd describe as epic (they are surely to come in the sequels), yet it felt as though they were epic. This is becuase the author doesn't overplay his hand - scenes that some authors might rush through as they are too ordinary for a fantasy novel, Patrick Rothus takes much more seriously, giving the scenes realism. Simple street fights feel real and significant; there are painful realities of not having money or food and living on the street. Everything feels real and important, and the book is that much more readable and believable for it.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. The only downside is that once you've read it, you'll want to read the sequel which is not due out for at least another year.

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