In Susanna Clarke's amazing debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, magic is alive and well in 19th century London. The novel is an unlikely mix of historical fiction, high fantasy, and Victorian drama, forming a compelling, unique reading experience. The plot assumes a world where magic is studied as a science, but has been absent in practice for centuries. This world is turned on its head as first Mr. Norrell, and later Jonathan Strange, reveal themselves as magicians. At first friends, the two become bitter enemies as the novel progresses, struggling against one another to determine not only the fate of the science of magic, but the future of London itself. Like all great fantasy, Clarke's writing creates a living world filled with believable characters. It is a style that will attract fans of classic authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, as well as contemporary masters of fantasy like Ursula LeGuin and Neil Gaiman.
Recommended by Tony Pellicone