Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: According to Variety, fortifying its stock of fantasy fare after The Lord of the Rings, New Line has made a preemptive deal worth high-six against seven figures for screen rights to "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell," the bestselling fantasy novel by Susanna Clarke.

Deal marks the third significant fantasy title secured by the studio in the wake of its billion-dollar "Rings" trilogy. Studio toppers Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne and Toby Emmerich are now reading Chris Weitz's first draft of "The Golden Compass," the start of the Philip Pullman trilogy "His Dark Materials," which Weitz will direct. The studio is searching for a writer for "Inkheart," the fantasy franchise by German author Cornelia Funke that it recently acquired.

"Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" has become a bestseller in both the U.S. and U.K. Story, set in 19th century England, is about a master practitioner of real magic and his apprentice, who share an uneasy alliance when they channel their powers in the war effort against Napoleon. One of them goes too far, tapping into an alternate dimension to bring a person back from the dead.

"Like Tolkien, Clarke has written a book that has its own mythology in a parallel world, with its own land and rules," Ordesky said.