The Rules of Magic

- Alice Hoffman


Find your magic.

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. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.



Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.



I'm struggling to see the point of this series. I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen, and every time it started to get even a little bit interesting, the moment passed.

Hoffman’s writing was much more captivating in Magic Lessons. In The Rules of Magic, the writing felt less like a narrative story and more like someone's study notes about a historical event. The entire book summarises characters and events, cutting it down to the core with no emotional or personal involvement. It almost felt like Hoffman forgot to go back and fill in the details to allow the story to live and breathe rather than just exist.

I'm not sure if you’re supposed to feel sorry for the Owens family, but I mostly find them annoying. It could be the lack of education - they all seem to drop out or stop attending school - or the alcohol or drug use from a young age - looking at you here, Vincent - but there’s no common sense in any of them. They’re only capable of ‘madly in love despite the curse’ or ‘I’ll never love anyone because of the curse’, which makes all of their choices frustrating and eventually pointless since they all give in and then end up regretting the time they wasted not giving in. I have yet to see evidence of a curse, by the way. Is the Owens family aware that people die and go to war and drown and break up, all as a routine part of human events? That a generational family curse isn’t required for love to end in heartbreak? And that if you make dumb irresponsible choices that put others in harm's way, you can’t blame it on a curse?

Whenever I started to like a character, they went out of their way to prove they were unlikeable, and then I was back to just trying to force myself through the book. Im regretting starting this series because I feel I can’t give up without giving Practical Magic a chance. I foresee a DNF in my future if it follows too closely in The Rules of Magic’s footsteps…



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