Also by this author: Faithful
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 10th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Last year I read and reviewed Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic on my blog. As much as I enjoyed the read overall, I remember that my one disappointment was that I really wanted to know more about Sally and Gillian’s aunts. The aunts just always seemed to pop up out of nowhere whenever they were needed and were just so mysterious and intriguing, even though they were only secondary characters. At times I actually found myself more interested in the aunts than in Sally and Gillian. I had no idea at the time I was writing about my thoughts on Practical Magic that Hoffman was already actively writing a prequel to Practical Magic that would give me exactly what I wanted, a back story for those two aunts. There was actual flailing on my part as soon as I heard about The Rules of Magic and I was truly over the moon when Simon and Schuster provided me with an advance review copy.
So did The Rules of Magic live up to my expectations? YES! It was everything I wanted it to be and even more. Memorable and loveable characters, gorgeous storytelling, and exquisite prose, The Rules of Magic truly has it all!
The Rules of Magic follows the Owens children, Franny, Jet, and Vincent as they are growing up in 1960’s New York City. Their mother, Susanna, knows that her children are unusual, perhaps even dangerously so. To keep them from drawing unnecessary and unwanted attention to themselves, Susanna has a list of rules that she insists they follow at all times: no walking in the moonlight, no cats, no crows, no wearing black, no red shoes, and no books about magic. And the most important rule of all, never ever fall in love. That last rule dates all the way back to 1620, when their ancestor Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Ever since then, love has been a curse for the Owens family. Susanna fights so hard to protect them from the curse because she herself has been a victim of it.
No matter how much Susanna tries to shield them, however, Franny, Jet, and Vincent soon begin to realize how different they really are and want to know more about themselves and about their family history. Franny discovers that she can communicate with birds, Jet realizes that she can read other people’s thoughts, and Vincent finds he is able to charm anyone and everyone around him without even trying and sometimes whether he wants to or not. They secretly begin to experiment more to see what other special powers they may have. A trip to the town in Massachusetts where Maria Owens was charged with witchery leads the children to uncover old family secrets and thus to begin to understand the truth of who they really are. Once they return to New York City, each of them begins their own potentially dangerous journey of self discovery. They also learn that there is no way they can escape love and so must determine if there is a way to escape the family curse so that they aren’t doomed to be alone.
The Rules of Magic is a beautiful, heartwarming and, at times, heartbreaking story of family, love, loss, acceptance, and finding oneself.
The Characters. Franny, Jet, and Vincent are just such wonderfully drawn characters. I fell in love with them immediately. Not only were they fascinating characters individually, but I also adored their sibling bond. They’re all so loyal and protective of each other. Watching Franny and Jet, in particular, and just knowing they would grow up to be the aunts in Practical Magic was just thrilling and made what was already a beautiful journey even more captivating. I don’t want to give away any details about their individual journeys, but I’ll just say that Hoffman is a master storyteller and each journey is equally compelling and unique because each of the children feels differently about what their family history means and what their own powers mean. I was so invested in each of them and hoping they would find a way to have everything they want. When they were happy, I was right there cheering for them, and when they experienced tragedy, I grieved right alongside them.
Hoffman’s Prose. Every time I read one of Alice Hoffman’s books, my immediate thought is “Man, I wish I could write like she does.” And this book was no exception. In fact, I was even more enamored than ever before by her writing. Her prose is truly exquisite and even though I hate to sound cliché, it’s spellbinding. The words just flow so smoothly and naturally and yet read like poetry all at the same time. The Rules of Magic, in particular, is full of colors, smells, sounds, and beautiful images. I felt like all of my senses were engaged the entire time I was reading.
The Setting. We travel many places during the course of this novel – 1960’s New York, Massachusetts, and even Paris – and Hoffman captures the atmosphere of each location perfectly. I especially loved the way she captured the lower Manhattan area and gave it such a forbidden, taboo quality. Equally fascinating was taking us to the street in Massachusetts where the aunts lived in Practical Magic and showing how the Owens history permeates that entire area. I also thought it was fabulous how Hoffman incorporates details from the Salem Witch Trials into her narrative, and especially her inclusion of John Hathorne, who was an actual judge during those trials.
Works Perfectly as a Standalone. Even though this is technically a prequel of Practical Magic, the way Hoffman has written it, you don’t need to have read Practical Magic to enjoy The Rules of Magic. Hoffman does a beautiful job of inserting some subtle nods to Practical Magic, which gave me a few OMG, YAY! nostalgic moments as I was reading, but The Rules of Magic is a beautiful story in its own right even without any ties to the other novel.
I could go on for days about all of the things I adored about this book, so I’m just going to stop now before I give away all of the important details, haha.
None! For me, The Rules of Magic is about as perfect as it gets. It will definitely be on my list of favorite reads for 2017.
If you love stories about magic and witches, this is your book. If you enjoy books about love, family, and finding oneself, this is your book. And by all means, if you loved Practical Magic, you’re going to want to read The Rules of Magic. It’s the prequel you probably didn’t even know you needed in your life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.