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Everyone has that special fictional world they would love to live in: Narnia, the Potterverse… Oh lord, the list goes on.

If I had a choice though, I know exactly which book universe I would want to live in: The universe of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, where magic reigns supreme in 19th century England, and there’s a long, intricate, and detailed history to the magic, its history, and its scholarship.

It’s not what I would call a happy universe, it’s as grim and proper as its real life counterpart was, and it’s not one where the magic fills you with a sense of childlike wonder at the possibilities: No, this magic is carefully controlled, constantly at risk for misuse, and doesn’t liberate the world from any of the constraints we know in this world, such as sexism, racism, colonialism, and classism.

The magic is, at the beginning of the book, the sole property of intellectual upperclassmen who are grey at the temples and dour in their approach to the real-life applications of magic, preferring theory.By the end of the book, that is slowly shifting away from the norm of magic, but there’s little chance that I, a Jewish lady with no proper background to speak of, would have access to the magic through any of its proper channels. Since this is my story though, I could easily see myself pushing through those paradigms and finding my own path to magic, which many others in the book did with varying success. It would, even if it ended up blowing up in my face, be quite the adventure.

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