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Like Clarke's first novel, the bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, these eight stories (seven previously published) are set in an England where magic is a serious but sometimes neglected field of study. The first story sees the erudite Strange tangling with country witches. Others show Austenesque concern with love and its outcomes ("Did you not hear me ask you to marry me?"), often involving fairies. In "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse," the duke visits Faerie, a kingdom located on the other side of the wall in the village of Wall (a location Clarke borrows from Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess), and meets a woman whose needlework affects the future. In the footnoted "Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge...," a "monumental" stone bridge is built in one afternoon. Clarke humorously revisits Rumplestiltzkin in "On Lickerish Hill," in which it is revealed that "Irishmen have tailes neare a quarter of a yard longe." Clarke may have trouble reaching a new audience in short form, as the stories provide less opportunity to get lost in fantastical material, but the author's many fans will be glad to have these stories in one volume. Illus. by Charles Vess not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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Revisiting characters and landscapes she created in her best-selling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004), Clarke has crafted eight quirky and devious stories to delight her fans. In the title story, Mr. Strange himself reappears and tangles with three country witches. "On Lickerish Hill" is a clever retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin," with a twist. In "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse," the redoubtable hero follows his horse into Wall, a village created by Neil Gaiman, and encounters a woman whose embroidery tells the future. The story set farthest back in time has Mary, Queen of Scots, trying to kill Queen Elizabeth with a skirt. And in the final story, the Raven King himself is outwitted by his lowliest subject. All but one of the stories takes place in or around 1811, and Clarke uses the language, diction, and historical settings beautifully, just hinting at Jane Austen. Each character is elegantly drawn and comes to life on the page. These stories are charming, engaging, and deceptively simple. Elizabeth Dickie
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
I delayed reading this book after loving Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell since I prefer longer stories which accompany me for a week or two even when I'm not reading them. Read morePublished 20 months ago by zachbrowman
I enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it was too episodic for my tastes. I wanted it to come together into one over-arching story. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2013 by James Bailie