Book Review

The Rules Of Magic

The Rules of Magic

  • Author: Alice Hoffman
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: October 10, 2017
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Series: Practical Magic #0.2

CONTENT WARNING: mention of statutory rape, mention of death of an animal, alcohol abuse, death of a parent, grief, mention of suicide, mention of addiction, mention of cancer, confinement

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in the 1600s, when Maria Owens was accused of 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 her children will never adhere to rules, and all three are desperate to uncover who they really are. When they visit their aunt Isabelle in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they begin to understand the truth of who they are. The siblings discover there are family secrets to uncover, as well as secrets they have kept hidden from each other. When they move to 44 Greenwich Avenue in New York City, each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. 

The Rules of Magic is both a fairy tale and a very practical story of real life, as lyrical as it is matter-of-fact. If you belong to the Owens family, desire is everywhere, but so are the dangers of human entanglements. You cannot escape love even if you try, just as you 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. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, here is a story about the power of love. Told in dreamy prose, with unforgettable characters and a world that is rife with enchantment, The Rules of Magic reminds us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as deeply as Magic Lessons, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. The writing had the same beautiful and lyrical quality, like being absorbed into a dreamy world where anything can and does happen, and everything works out exactly as it’s supposed to. 

We meet the youngest generation of Owens children — Franny, Jet, and Vincent — who are coming of age in the turbulent 1960s. The character development of each of them was absolutely incredible, and the way the book was written made me feel like I knew each of them as I grew up, celebrating their joys and successes, and mourning their heartbreaks. This was one of the rare books that had me actually crying at points, although I knew they were meant for big things. 

Through all of it, there was that same amazing vein of magic that ran through the start of the Owens story. It was so cool to see how this strong line of women had honored their roots and continued to practice the same traditions, hundreds of years later, allowing them to thrive even in a place that remained somewhat hostile to them:

“Local people might not like the Owens family, they might cross to the other side of the street when they saw Isabelle on her way to the market with a black umbrella held overhead to ward off the sun, but as soon as they were in need, they battled the thorn bushes and vines to reach the porch and ring the bell, knowing they were welcome when the porch light was turned on.”

Franny is the oldest sister, struggling with her own issues but setting everything aside for the good of her younger siblings. I could empathize with her mixed emotions. She was torn between wanting to fight the curse yet unable to deny the love of her life. And after a traumatic scene, she had to put her own dreams on hold to provide for Jet and Vincent. 

“When it came to the future she was certain she would never get what she wanted.”

Jet was such a heartbreaking character for me. I just wanted to hug her and comfort her, but she was still an incredibly strong woman. Beautiful and magically talented, she also suffers under the effects of the family curse, but in a different way than her sister. Her sensitive nature leaves her more vulnerable in some ways, but also more open to change. And she was one of those women who becomes old before her time:

“When you are young you are looking forward and when you are old you are looking back. Jet was young but she was already looking back.”

Ah, Vincent. He was the unique male of the Owens line — a boy born to a long line of women. I found his character fascinating, and possibly the most heartbreaking, but also the most inspiring. His story made me cry the hardest, both for him and all those around him. His talents affected him differently than his sisters and the other women in the family, and he dealt with them in the only ways that he knew, which weren’t always the most healthy.  

He wished he’d never had the sight. What had become a game when he was a boy had become an affliction. He had no desire to tap into other people’s pain, to know them better than they knew themselves.”

Instead of making me miss the world of the first book, it actually made me more intrigued about the last book in the series, which I’m expecting to make me feel even more connected to the family. I loved seeing how it’s all connected, and the strength of the family ties, even amongst people who barely know each other aside from sharing a last name. But above all, the writing is what kept me hooked. It’s simple yet alluring, painting a gorgeous picture of a family working to overcome a centuries-old curse in search of lasting love.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 5

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