Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was one of those books that had insane praise, that you almost felt you had to read. So, I did, and I was rewarded with an incredible, unique reading experience. That being said, you have to commit if you are to read it. It takes a good 100-200 pages to really get into the flow of the story. Clarke creates a system of magic for early 19th century England that seems perfectly believable. And she does it with a flare and style few authors achieve.
The relationship between Norrell and Strange is what makes this book so special. Their worldviews are so different, their philosophies collide and yet, there clearly is a level of respect between them. It is interesting that Norrell is the meticulous, more careful magician but it is his reckless use of magic in summoning the Faerie that caused much of the problems later on. At 850 pages, this book reads even longer because of the inordinate number of footnotes (Clarke often goes on for pages), but those footnotes color the entire story and give the reader a great understanding of magic in England. Clarke blends beautiful prose, a unique style, and an intriguing story to create a reading experience like no other novel.