If you read your first Harry Potter when you were 10, you're probably pushing 20 now. You're ready for some serious literature, and this imposing volume, some 800 pages in hardcover, is quite serious, even if it is all about magicians and fairies. Clarke tells the story of how two very different men, the dry, fussy Norrell and the witty, Byronic Strange, brought the practice of magic back to England, and the joys and sorrows magic brought with it. A fiercely funny, beautiful writer, Clarke attacks her subject with the wit and craft of a Dickens or an Austen, effortlessly mixing historical figures and events in with her magical ones. And that magic: nobody writes about magic the way Clarke does. In Rowling's work it's sometimes played for laughs, but to Clarke magic is a strange, evanescent thing, confabulated from rain and moonlight and frost, that makes your hair stand up and comes with its own hidden costs. She writes about magic as if she's actually worked it.