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The England of old presented in this period drama is dense with Dickensian theme: Betrayal, Legacy, Pride, and Politics. Oh, and the dangers of unknown magic.

"Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" takes place in an alternate history during the Napoleonic War of the 19th Century and is filled with brilliant performances, beautiful set design, and a twisting tale which gets weirder as we tumble through it. The writers and directors of BBC dramas have spoiled its audience once again, and, once again, set the bar a notch higher for quality entertainment. BBC is particularly deft at adapting written work with fine pacing and even finer costuming. The way Ms. Clarke's characters were transposed here goes to show a real understanding of the mood, atmosphere, and vision on the source material -- a doorstopper of literary fantasy published in 2004. You can't help but want to spend hours with these characters.

Only Bleak House, Downton Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice have been produced and directed so masterfully. If you're a fan of classic works by Bronte, Austen, or Dickens, and wish they came with a healthy dose of magicians, secrets, and other worlds hidden in old books, this is for you.

Recommended by Matthew Lowder


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