So downblog a ways, Kate Nepveu recommended Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a piece of Napoleonic fiction, so of course I instantly read it.

And having done so, I have to say that it doesn’t quite count as Napoleonic to me. I mean, yes, it takes place around the time of Napoleon, but so do romance novels, and that doesn’t make them Napoleonic. And okay, to be fair, a chunk of this book actually takes place on battlefields with the Army, but even so, it doesn’t quite make the Napoleonic genre cut. Not enough foretop mizzenmasts, maybe.

Leaving Napoleon aside, though, this is an excellent fantasy of manners. In fact, an excerpt from it might almost be used as the definition by example of the genre:

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange.

Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never could.”

My only criticism of the book is that it gets a bet too Faerie-ish, in that Gaiman/Vess way, at some points. But for the most part, it’s a delight. If you like fantasies of manners, you’ll like this. If it’s Napoleon you want, though... well, see my next entry.


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