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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365

The novel is a fantasy about magic, war, and espionage set in Europe during the Napoleonic era. The two title characters are both magicians. Mr. Norrell soon becomes an established figure among London’s magician circles, and Jonathan Strange is a young upstart. Norrell’s success, initially through personal works for influential patrons, builds quickly through its military-political applications. Strange, initially without any experience or even interest in magic, is later recruited to assist him. Conflicts of personality, style, and philosophy shape both their interactions and the success of their works in service of the British Crown. The characters of Lady Pole and Stephen Black, a servant of African heritage, provide the counterpoint to the main plot, as an ill-intentioned magical creature manipulates them for his dark desires.

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Mr. Norrell comes to prominence by assisting Sir Walter Pole and his fiancée, the fair Miss Wintertowne, who dies a week before their wedding. Pole and his friends persuade Mr. Norrell to use his magic to bring her back to life. Norrell accepts reluctantly and achieves this feat with the aid of a mysterious apparition called “the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.” In exchange for helping Norrell, the apparition's condition is that he henceforth will own half her life. To symbolize his claim, this gentleman initially takes the little finger of her left hand. Although technically alive, the young lady—now Lady Pole—has no...

(The entire section contains 365 words.)

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