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– Promos and photos, a rundown of –

– It’s Alive –

– Terrified of Visual Effects –

– To see a Gentleman about his Hair –

As a person who loves to read and works for TV, I am a big fan of adaptations. I pride myself that I understand the challenges of the medium and will be more than willing to apply my knowledge to reviewing this one for the next couple of weeks. But first- a rundown.

The conceited, teacher-pupil rival magicians of Yorkshire will finally grace our Sunday night tv schedule starting May 17, 9pm on BBC One.

Pitched as Amadeus meets Lord of the Rings, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is based on Susanna Clarke’s betselling debut of the same title and it’s expected to be this year’s biggest “period drama” from the Beebs.

I wrote a review (of the book) a few weeks ago here and you could say that I am more than excited about this seven-part drama. I’m terrified as any fan of course.

Courtesy of BBC One

Courtesy of BBC One

Horrible adaptation- we’ve seen it happen. At the hands of the less experienced, a beloved book (out of contact embarrassment) would spontaneously explode on it’s shelf or in the case of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’s brand of magic, deliberately unwrite itself from every million copy sold out there.

a beloved book would spontaneously explode on it’s shelf or in the case of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’s brand of magic, deliberately unwrite itself from every million copy sold out there.

We are both assured by its production team and the cast that this adaptation is faithful to the spirit of the book. Meaning, it’s going to be every reader’s fantasy come alive.

In an interview with The Guardian, Eddie Marsan who plays reclusive and stuffy magician, Mr Norrell, admits fantasy is not his cup of tea. But even people who don’t usually read from the genre will be surprised that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is as much about politics, gender criticism and history as it is about magic and spells.

Bertie Carvel (Olivier winner), playing the other half of this eccentric duo, Strange, is a big fan of Susanna Clarke’s book and read it a few years after the book came out. He sought the part himself and is as excited of the adaptation as any fan out there. I think that’s saying a lot.

In case you’re still wondering if writer, Peter Harness and director Toby Haynes ‘gets it’, I think we should all be pacified at how they approached the magic and visual effects in Susanna Clarke’s masterpiece:

“We wanted it [magic] to feel physical. We have a logic where magic came from.” Toby Haynes, director of the seven episodes.

“Magic is a little like the atom bomb.It was terrible and unpredictable once you put it out of the box you can’t put it back in again.” Peter Harness, writer.

All I can say is yes, they get it!

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer for this glorious fantasy drama come alive:

Gloomy faery lands, talking statues, stuffy parlours, society parties, the Napoleonic War and sand horses running wild on the beach, not to mention terrifying flocks of raven- Susanna Clarke’s bestseller offer vistas of magic that could be a challenge to any visual effects house but thankfully, this was well planned out (visual effects done by London based company, MILK VFX). Judging from the trailer, we can only say one thing- this is how you do magic Hollywood, pay attention!

Also, look at the set design, costume, and cinematography!


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Strikingly the most curious character in the book would be the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair and this reader is definitely looking forward to Marc Warren’s take on this menacing person! He’s going to raise the bar on villainy I expect.

Blogger Martyn Drake gives more details on the cast performance here.

And if that’s not enough, here’s a few minutes from the first episode “Friends of English Magic”.

Come back here next week for a detailed analysis of the first episode where I talk about the differences from the book (because of course it’s inevitable) and my first impressions!

You can also follow the Facebook page dedicated to the tv adaptation at Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Most of the cast and the producers are in twitter also.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell premieres May 17 on BBC One and June 13 on BBC America.

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SFF Book Reviews

random thoughts about fantasy & science fiction books


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