The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted January 26, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Digital Audiobook narrated by Marin Ireland

Published by Simon & Schuster on October 10, 2017
Series: Practical Magic #0.5
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Magic, Magical Realism, Paranormal, Witches
Length: 369 pages or 10 hours, 58 minutes
Source: Overdrive

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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.

This book is slooooooooooow.

It’s not bad, but the pacing is excruciating.  I listened to the audiobook and I feel like Marin Ireland did a really good job narrating.  She gave each character their own voice.  But the story feels like it’s going nowhere fast.  The Rules of Magic introduces us to Franny, Jet, and Vincent – three Owens siblings who fall in love and ruin lives because of a curse put on their family.  Therefore, the storyline follows them from age fourteen (in Vincent’s case, the youngest) up into their twenties as the siblings struggle through love and loss and their legacy.

The Rules of Magic tells three different love stories, one for each of the siblings.  Jet’s is first – fast, passionate, and heartbreaking.  Then, there’s Vincent’s love story.  It’s sweet and feels somehow dangerous and forbidden.  Finally, there’s Franny’s story.  Franny’s is my favorite because it pulled my heartstrings.  Her love is slow, long-denied, and hopelessly devoted.  The whole story is sad and beautiful.

This book is really something you have to be willing to go through at a leisurely pace.  Alice Hoffman focuses on the internal struggles of the siblings, and in doing so, there’s not a lot of external detail.  What we do get is vibrant – usually in colors of temperatures, something tangible that sets the scene, but nothing flowery.  Still, her writing manages to be beautiful, like a flowing vine.  It’s that writing that makes the book move so slowly.  Not only does she let us know what Franny, Jet, and Vincent are feeling, but she makes sure that the reader is so immersed that we feel it as well.

I really like the magical realism aspect in both The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic.  Alice Hoffman is the only author I know of who write witches in modern settings and still lets them feel mythical, ancient.  Their inborn gifts are subtle.  The witchcraft that the sisters and their aunt brew feels more like natural medicine than potions and spells.  Hoffman has done her research so well – she knows her herbs and plants.  She knows her old wives tales.  Really, that aspect is perfect.  In my opinion, Alice Hoffman is the queen of magical realism.

The Rules of Magic has a lot of things going for it.  It’s beautifully written, the relationships are good.  It’ll make you cry.  The pacing is VERY slow.  I think that anyone who loves Practical Magic will be pleased with this book.  It’s very highly hyped, so the advice I’d give is to go in with a level head.  Since this book has an internal conflict, there’s not a lot of action to pull you forward.  You have to fall in love with the characters.  And if you fall in love with the characters, you’ll fall in love with their story.

The Breakdown
Personal Enjoyment
Overall: four-stars

Have you read any of Alice Hoffman’s books?

Do you enjoy witchy stories?

What types of love stories do you like?


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4 responses to “The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

  1. I also read this book a couple days ago…I loved it but I still rated it 3 stars due to the pacing and repetition that got on my nerves (all the stuff about witches, OVER and OVER!)
    My favorite character was Vincent. I didn’t really like Franny’s relationship with H–already I forgot his name. It seemed too forced. I don’t know… But I liked the book overall.

    • Amber

      The repetition was in my notes initially… but after a while I started tuning it out. The pacing though was rooooough. I use a system of averages for my final rating… left to my own devices instead of a breakdown, I think I probably would have cut it a half star. ?

  2. Maxine

    A fantastic review. I’ve never read an Alice Hoffman book but adore the Practical Magic movie. I will keep an eye out for it 🙂

    • Amber

      The pacing in the books is different than the movie, definitely slower. Storywise, I think I liked The Rules of Magic better than Practical Magic… but I grew up with the other story so it has a special place in my heart. 🙂