The Rules of Magic
Series: Practical Magic, Book 0
By Alice Hoffman
Read by: Marin Ireland
Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
Release date: 10-10-17
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic.
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.
I’ve always thought it was weird that the creed of both the pagan world and the Hippocratic oath start off the same, although with different wording,* with a pledge to do no harm. Odd that doctors, 99.99999% male, were lauded then and witches, mostly female, reviled or worse. Throughout human history witches, or supposed witches, have been made villains, romanticized, trivialized, fetishized, and executed (sometimes all at once).
The credo of some of the members of the family in this book is that to deny one’s nature brings disaster, and that not pretending leads to a more authentic, but not necessarily happy, life. I think it is the tension between those trying to be themselves and those trying to stop it that really causes the disaster.
This story by Alice Hoffman about a family of witches is certainly not romantic and is mostly about about family in many forms: by choice or by blood, dysfunctional or, well, dysfunctional. It is a prequel to PRACTICAL MAGIC, but as I haven’t read PRACTICAL MAGIC in years, I am not wholly seeing the relationship.
It’s also about how we, as humans or witches or any form of sentient being with the power of self-determination, do harm even when we try to do good, and that the famously wronged witch in this novel, who starts off the chain of events, does do harm against her family in the form of a curse. She seems vaguely based on Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s THE SCARLET LETTER.
It also looks at the changes in society as they reflect on family tradition and one’s personal truth.
That the family members are witches is secondary to the above mentioned issues – the magic is not too different from any other distinguishing characteristic like money or position. And, like money or position, witchy powers don’t equal happiness.
Hoffman does a wonderful job building the characters whose shared history and relationships are tangible. She also does a great job maturing them while maintaining the fundamental nature of their characters.
I don’t want to over-reveal, but it also points to other ways one was required to hide one’s true nature in other aspect of life, as well as the duplicitous nature of the denial. A woman might go to witch for help, but then, avoid that same woman or tell her children to avoid “that woman’s” house.
Marin Ireland is a new to me narrator who has a natural reading voice with less of an acting bent to her narration. It’s a nice change; she does the voices but it feels like someone reading a book to me in a soothing fashion.
The book is thoughtful and well-written but it’s not a cheerful read; it tells us about the inexorable downward spiral of each character’s life. To be happy, one had to shed one’s identity to fool the curse that promises misery in love and misery out of it as well.
It did make we want to reread PRACTICAL MAGIC though.
*I know the wording of the Rede is more archaically constructed but it is not quite as short; I needed a shorter wording for title. My superficial read of the oath is that it has very, very similar meaning.