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The Rules of Magic

Cover: 'The Rules of Magic'

Staff Review: "The Rules of Magic" by Alice Hoffman

★★★★★

The Rules of Magic is a prequel to the 1995 best-seller Practical Magic, a book I fell in love with years ago. That novel told the story of Sally and Gillian Owens, who were raised by their mystical aunts, Franny and Jet, after the death of their parents. But in The Rules of Magic, we rewind several decades, chronicling Franny and Jet’s lives into adulthood.

When the book begins, Franny, Jet, and their younger brother, Vincent, are teens growing up in New York City in 1960. On Franny’s 17th birthday, she receives a written invitation from her great aunt Isabelle, requesting that she and her siblings spend the summer with her in her small, historic Massachusetts town. The three siblings go, and learn that the entire Owens family have witch ancestry, thus imbuing them with magical gifts of their own. But their family history also comes with a curse: any man that falls in love with an Owens will die a certain, early death.

This information shapes how Franny, Jet, and Vincent live their lives moving forward. Franny, in love with her childhood friend, Haylin, pulls away and keeps him at a distance; Jet, in love with a man whose ancestor persecuted supposed witches in Salem, decides to love with all her heart and hope the curse is wrong; and Vincent, focused on getting stronger and better at magic, tries to make as few personal attachments as possible.

I fell in love with Practical Magic for its absolutely beautiful, whimsical magical realism. The Rules of Magic has recaptured that same tone, and builds upon the story of the first book, giving Franny and Jet a rich history while also expanding the narrative to include a handful of new characters to get attached to. While reading, I kept wondering how the book would end and how it would dovetail with Practical Magic, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction, romance, magical realism

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