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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
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

Another charming read
The Rules of Magic is a prequel in Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. It is June 1960 when the Owens siblings, Frances, Bridget and Vincent, leave New York to spend summer for the first time with their Aunt Isabelle in the Magnolia Street house in Massachusetts. Their parents are resigned to this, but neither is pleased. Susanna has done her utmost to steer her children towards a normal life, and away from all things magical, but prohibition has been ineffective.

Even at fourteen years old, Vincent accepts that they are different, having sought out a copy of the banned Magus downtown. He freely shares his musical talents, but hides his clairvoyance, disturbed enough by it to resort to alcohol, and later ventures into the darker side of his craft.

When April Owens, their eighteen-year-old, rebellious second (or third or fifth) cousin, turns up at Magnolia Street, the sisters are wary, but the connection with Vincent can’t be denied.

It’s clear that his sisters have gifts too: seventeen-year-old Franny has an uncanny connection to birds; sixteen-year-old Jet can almost always tell what people are thinking. Vincent suggests his older sisters acknowledge what they are. Aunt Isabelle counsels that to deny who you are only brings unhappiness.

By the time they leave Aunt Isabelle’s, Franny has read Mary Owens’s diary and knows about the curse that afflicts all members of the Owens family: Ruination for any man who fell in love with them. Each of the siblings starts out determined not to inflict this on anyone, but how can you control falling in love? Besides which, one of the rules of magic from Aunt Isabelle’s Grimoire said “Fall in love whenever you can.”

Jet falls for Levi with tragic and far-reaching consequences, and life changes radically for the siblings. Vincent’s lover is someone who understands the curse and is ready to accept what fate throws their way. When Franny finally acquiesces to the love she has been denying for years, her lover has a clever plan to fool the curse.

Set against the backdrop of the sixties: the Summer of Love, drugs, the Monterey Pop Festival, the draft, Hoffman tells the story of those amazing aunts who played such an important role in the lives of Sally and Gillian in Practical Magic.

And what a marvellous tale it is: another enchanting story of family and love and magic. The characters are appealing and often a bit quirky, the romance is delightful and the magic fun. Hoffman gives her characters wise words and insightful observations about life. The prequel Magic Lessons, which tells Maria Owens story, is eagerly awaited. Another charming read.
Power Reviewer
Betty Taylor

Love and Teen Witches
I have read several of Alice Hoffman’s books but this one was certainly different for me. I have not read “Practical Magic” so did not really know what to expect. While this book is a prequel to “Practical Magic”, it also stands alone. Ms. Hoffman is certainly versatile – the story of Masada in “The Dovekeepers” and now witches.
In the 1600’s when the witches were being persecuted in Boston they sought safety in Manhattan. It is now late 1960’s and Susanna Owens lives in New York City with her three children. Franny can converse with birds, Jet can read people’s thoughts, and Vincent charms everyone that he meets. He was so charming at his birth a nurse attempted to kidnap him from the hospital. So no wonder that everyone shuns the family – unless they want a potion or a salve.
Susanna tries to protect her children by applying rules - no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. But above all they are never to fall in love. For them, love is a curse. But teens are teens, witch or not. They are going to rebel and do exactly what they are told not to do.
Ms. Hoffman made the three siblings so real that I found myself caught up in their emotional struggles. They set out to discover who they are and their place in the world. And as hard as they try to avoid love, the teens could not deny the feelings of their human hearts. Thus they are forced to struggle with the consequences of their family curse, and perhaps the greatest lesson they learn is that in the Henry David Thoreau quote in the epigraph – “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
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