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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

Vincent could flimflam other people, even Jet could be fooled by his charm, but Franny harbored an instinct for such things. Truth felt light and green, but a lie sunk to the floor, heavy as metal, a substance she always avoided for it made her feel as though she was trapped behind bars. Still, Vincent was the most appealing of liars and Franny felt a swell of love for her brother when he shrugged and told the truth.

"You're right. They couldn't sell it in a bookstall," he confided. "It's still illegal."

Any copies that had been unearthed at the turn of the century had been burned on a bonfire in Washington Square and there was a little-known law forbidding the book to be kept in libraries in New York City or sold in bookstores. Inside the book now splayed upon the table

Franny spied images of witches led to a gallows hill. The date printed below the illustration was 1693. A chill of recognition ran through her. She'd recently written a report for history class on the Salem trials and therefore knew this to be the year when many of those set to be tried escaped from New England in search of a more tolerant place, which they found in Manhattan. While the antiwitchcraft mania raged in New England, spurred on by politics, greed, and religion, ignited by Cotton Mather and the infamous and cruel judge John Hathorne, in New York only two witch trials had taken place, in 1658 and again in 1665, one in Queens, the other on Long Island, then called Yorkshire, in the town of Setauket, both involving residents who had ties to Boston. In New York, Franny had discovered, it was possible to be free.

"Why would you want this thing?" Franny's fingertips had turned sooty and she had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Of course it would be like Vincent to be interested in the occult, rather than something ordinary, like soccer or track and field. He was suspended from school on a regular basis for general mischief, pails of water tumbling down, cans of pepper spray going off. His ongoing behavior was a great embarrassment to their father, who had recently published a book titled A Stranger in the House, an analysis of troubled adolescents dedicated to the children, none of whom had any intention of reading it, though it was something of a bestseller.

Franny could guess where The Magus had come from. The place on their mother's list they were never to go. Downtown. It was rumored that what was outlawed in other parts of Manhattan could be found there. Hearts of beasts, blood of men, enchantments that could prove to be lethal. The chief reason their mother did not allow them to journey to Greenwich Village was that it was viewed as a society of bohemians, drug addicts, homosexuals, and practitioners of black magic. Yet Vincent had managed to find his way there.

"Trust me, it's nothing to worry about," he muttered, quickly retrieving The Magus. "Really, Franny, it's just a lousy book."

"Be careful," Franny admonished him.

Perhaps she was also speaking to herself, for she was often alarmed by her own abilities. It wasn't only that birds were drawn to her or that she'd discovered she could melt icicles with the touch of her hand. There was some scientific logic behind both of those reactions. She was calm and unafraid when birds flapped about, and her body temperature was above average, therefore it was logical for ice to melt. But one night, while standing on the fire escape outside her bedroom, she'd thought so hard about flying that for a moment her feet had lifted and she'd hung in the air. That, she knew, was empirically impossible.

"We don't really know what we're dealing with," she murmured to her brother.

"But it's something, isn't it?" Vincent said. "Something inside of us. I know our mother wants us to pretend we're like everyone else, but you know that we're not."

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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