“I was not impressed for 850 of the 1006 pages, and the other 156 pages were not all that exiting as well. Re-reading Lord of the Rings for the 35th time or so would have been a better choice”Gil Lissens wrote this review yesterday. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“What an enormous behemoth of a domesticated English magical narrative. The whole book felt like drinking store brand tea: sometimes its great, and it sure puts you in the British swing of things, but after a while, you are dying for innovation. Jonathan Strange was so close to being a dynamic character, Mr. Norrell was so close to being a cranky but electric adversary, and yet! Even Faerie seemed hopelessly small- the world building was just a sketch, with only one particular arena drawn in full. I have been looking forward to reading this for a long time, I was sorta disappointed.”bensbooks wrote this review 10 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I wish I could rate the book higher. There were moments of superbly crafted humour, or imaginative descriptions that brought the author's world to light. Unfortunately, these moments came in gasps and fleeting glances. What was done in 1000 pages could have been accomplished in 300. While it is tempting to applaud the author for her dedication and the sheer enormity of her work, it seems more appropriate to point out that it is very easy to write and continue on writing, but much more difficult to cut and craft a tightly woven, efficient and entertaining story.”Sam W wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great story with a lot of british humor. Some people compare it to Harry Potter but I don't think they have much in common. This book suits better adults than children. ”xElizzex wrote this review Sunday, November 3, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“More lik 3.5 stars, can't quite stretch to 4 (might have if my reading hadn't been divided into two chunks, which made the story a little disconnected). Part of me wants to describe this as the grown-up version of Harry Potter. It was fun & I'm glad I read it. ”Amanda wrote this review Friday, October 25, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“It's really hard for me to pull together my opinion of this one, because I loved it and hated it as I was reading. For me, it was a strange combination of savoring the language and style, and simultaneously being bored with the plot and impatient to get through it.
The style, especially at the beginning, is very Dickensian. The tone, the slow-building plot with seemingly unrelated characters, wondering how they're going to end up being integral to the tapestry being woven, all make for a warm, nostalgic feeling without any regard for the actual story. For the first 200 pages, that was enough to keep me going, even though I repeatedly found myself wishing for new characters and threads to be introduced. Unfortunately, the plot never really did get more intricate; it just kept moving along slowly on one or two tracks, and my primary feeling while reading the first 600 pages was impatience. The next 100 pages began to pick up, and I became hopeful. Then the last 100 pages – finally! – gave me what I was after, and allowed me to rate this book with 4 stars instead of a yawning 3.
I don’t know if it’s because I am a fan of regular fantasy, but I require more magic in a book about magic. I very quickly grew sick of the debates about whether magic should be used or not. I found myself sympathizing with Mr. Norrell's audience who just wanted to see a trick or two of real magic rather than getting a lecture about why not.
I don’t think that’s the whole, however. I enjoy historical fiction on its own, so why didn’t this combination of my two favorite genres satisfy me? On reflection, I believe it’s because I never felt close to the story. It was as if I were viewing the entire scene through a window. Even when something drastic finally happened, I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the characters felt it. The tone was too distant throughout. The same tone and language that gave me the nostalgic Dickensian feel never gave way to the Dickensian depth of character and feeling that usually follows. The intricate tapestry didn't materialize.
I did enjoy the premise and I thought the story itself was well-conceived. In the end, it was just too long-winded and slow for me - too boring. Not enough depth, not enough feeling, and not enough magic.”
“Correction - I finished all that I am going to finish of this book. After 250 pages of nothing going on substantially and the constant introduction of new characters, I decided that there are too many good books to read and too little time!”Nicole wrote this review Thursday, October 17, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“After 400 pages I couldn't find one thing that made me want to finish this book. There were too many side stories and the footnotes became a separate book all on their own. The plot never developed, the characters didn't come alive for me and nothing ever really happened. Too boring, too long ! ”Michelle wrote this review Wednesday, October 9, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Although the book was well written and became quite fascinating in the end of it, the part that most attracted me were the beautiful illustrations it contained.
“This book has received a lot of praise, and a lot of awards--it won the Hugo, World Fantasy and Locus Awards for Best Novel of 2005 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I could in the beginning see why it might appeal. Clarke writes as if Jane Austen, or at least Georgette Heyer, is her native language. This sprawling novel is filled with an ironic tone and sprinkled with phrases, words, spellings of the Regency period: “grateful for the information,” “entirely astonished,” “sensible of the honour you do me,” “shewing,” “chuse.” There are references to such historical figures as Lord Byron, Mrs Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis and the Duke of Wellington and King George III are minor characters. I have to admit the Jane Austen fan in me was tickled at first. The book reads at times like it’s an enormous in-joke for aficionados of the period. And every once in a while, (a “while” being once every hundred pages) there were some gripping scenes--particularly the one where Mr Norrell brings York Cathedral to life.
But if the tone and era it’s set in is reminiscent of Austen, it lacks her humor and wit--and economy; the prolixity is more Dickens, but without his gift for unforgettable characters. The pacing was awful--so little happens in hundreds of pages. The long footnotes a la Terry Pratchett did not help. When the footnotes weren’t short and pointless they were irritatingly long and pointless, going on for pages and bringing the flow of the narrative to a stuttering stop. Nor, unlike say some other leisurely-paced fantasy novels such as Peake’s Gormenghast, did it repay with great imagery and lovely, lovely prose. I found Clarke’s writing repetitive in its wording and dull. It didn’t help that except for a few secondary characters, such as Stephen Black and Arabella Strange, the characters were unlikeable and just not all that interesting--particularly Mr. Norrell. The characters weren’t revealing much complexity or hinting at growth over hundreds of pages. And here is this work of alternate history where magic has been discovered--and it changes nothing.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that if a book doesn’t spark your interest within 100 pages, you should let it go--it’s just not for you. I’ve had a few novels get off to a very slow start in the first 100, even 200 pages, to finish favorites--Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine come to mind (and Gormenghast). I was ready to give up though after 150 pages when I came across a quote from Neil Gaiman calling Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell "the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years." I’ve loved what I’ve read of Gaiman--so I plunged back in. I’m sorry I did. The more I stayed with the novel, the slower going I found it. Having pushed to the half-way point, I felt I had invested so much I should push through the rest. But then I realized that if you’ve read over 400 pages of an 847-page book, and you only feel increasing suffering, it’s time to bail. Life is too short, and the list of great books unread too long, to persist.”