I first read this several years ago, and recalled it as a good, but long read. Having recently been reading Temeraire I wanted to read another fantasy book based in the Napoleonic Wars and having read a review in Sabrina’s Library.
What finally made me pick it up again though was hiking up lanes with dry stone walls and mature trees either side. I wanted to escape back to a book where these lanes are themselves magical.
The plot centres around the friendship and rivalry of two magicians, Norrell and Strange who are each eccentric in their own way, and a prophecy. All the best sorts of books involve a mysterious prophecy. These men are trying to reintroduce magic to England, but without involving any of the wilder types of magic that had characterised the golden age of magic, as this is not seen to be English behaviour.
In their mission they have to handle the influential people of London, war, balls and some altogether darker forces to find out why spells no longer work in England.
The reading style is also enjoyable, with the most charming parts of the book being the extensive and long footnotes. These explain details which would be obvious to anyone living in this imaginary world and invented folk stories. This breaks up longer stretches and gives the whole novel an air of a history book, mostly biography.
This book is a long read, but is worth it. I have already ordered The Ladies of Grace Adieu to read next.