After a hiatus of several centuries since it was actively practiced, magic is back in early 19th century England. Clarke has created an alternate, magical history, in which England has a history of having been divided between the north and south, and a temporal and a fairy kingdom. Stuffy intellectuals satisfy themselves with studying the writings of the past, forming debating societies. But in 1807 a person emerges who dares to practice magic. Mr Norrell is an arrogant fellow, convinced not only that he is the only decent practical magician in England, but that it would be best if he were the only one allowed to practice at all. He proceeds to play politics to sustain, increase and legitimize his monopoly. The emergence of a second practical magician presents a challenge, solved in the short term by taking on Jonathan Strange as a student. Both magicians want to use their talent for the good of their country, and perform amusing and not so amusing spells on the French enemy. Ultimately they are faced with the growing emergence of a real, powerful, underlying magical realm. It intrudes on their lives and forces them to confront darkness while trying to master the unsuspected reality. The book has a wonderful pretext, and the tale is told in a straight style, with more than a few touches of humor. It offers a look at how the new use the machinery of government to create a sinecure, how a need to impress can lead to corruption. It is fun to read, but does take quite a long time, and has sections in which it drags. It should probably have been shorter by a hundred or two hundred pages. Meanderings are many. In short, it was enjoyable, and is recommended but not to the highest degree.