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Excerpt from The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Rules of Magic

by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman X
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 384 pages
    Jun 2018, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Print Excerpt

Haylin despised his background of wealth and privilege and wore torn, threadbare clothes and boots so old there were holes in the soles. All he wanted was a dog and permission to attend public school. His parents denied him both of these wishes. His father was the largest shareholder in a global bank that had been based in Manhattan since 1824, which was a great cause of shame for Hay. By the time they were in high school, he had considered legally changing his name to Jones or Smith so no one could connect him with his family and their infamous greed. One of the reasons he trusted Franny was because she was utterly unimpressed by externals. She didn't care if he lived in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, or that his father had a butler who had been to Oxford and wore a morning coat and polished boots.

"What a lot of bother," Franny always said.

Most important, they had science in common. Haylin was currently studying the effects of cannabis on his calorie intake. So far he'd gained five pounds in less than a month, becoming addicted not to marijuana but to jelly doughnuts. He seemed easygoing, except when he talked about biology or injustice or his dedication to Franny. He trailed after her, not seeming to care if he made a fool of himself. When they were together, he had an intense gleam in his eye that Franny found disconcerting. It was as if there was a whole other part of him, a hidden self that was fueled by emotions neither he nor Franny was ready to confront.

"Tell me everything about you," Haylin often asked her.

"You already know me," Franny answered. He knew her better than anyone. Better, she sometimes feared, than she knew herself.

Unlike Franny and Jet, Vincent made his way through school with ease. He had taken up the guitar and in no time had surpassed his teacher, and soon enough packs of infatuated girls followed him through the school hallways. His interest in magic began early on. He pulled quarters from classmates' ears and lit matches with a puff of breath. In time, his talents increased. With a single look he could make the electricity in the Owenses' house go haywire, with lights flickering, then fizzing out entirely. Locked doors unlatched when they hadn't been touched, windows opened and closed when he was near. When Franny asked how he accomplished such things, he refused to divulge his methods.

"Figure it out," he said with a grin.

Vincent had posted a sign on his bedroom door, ENTER AT YOUR OWN PERIL, but Franny walked right in to search the place. There was nothing interesting in the desk drawers or the closet, but when she reached into the cobwebby space beneath her brother's bed she discovered an occult handbook called The Magus. Franny knew its history, for it was on their mother's list of forbidden books. It had been so popular when it was published, in 1801, that not enough texts could be printed. People committed robbery in their desire to own it, and many devotees kept it hidden under the floorboards. Vincent's well-worn copy was still just as potent as ever. It smelled like sulfur, and as soon as Franny saw it, she had a sneezing fit. If she wasn't mistaken, she was allergic to the thing.

The Magus was so hot to the touch she burned her fingers on its binding as she plucked it from its hiding place. It was not the sort of item a person picked up on a whim. You had to know what you were looking for, and you had to have the courage to handle it.

Franny flung the text on the kitchen table as Vincent was having his lunch. There went the potato salad and the coleslaw, splattering across the tabletop. The spine of the book was black and gold, cracked with age. When it hit the table the book groaned.

"Where did this come from?" she asked.

Vincent stared at her and didn't flinch. "A used book kiosk outside the park."

"That is not true," Franny said firmly. "You've never been to a bookstall in your life!"

Excerpted from The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. Copyright © 2017 by Alice Hoffman. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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