The Rules of Magic
Read: 28th October – 5th November 2017
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
So, before we get into what I thought about this book, I want you to know that I was lucky enough to be given a digital version of this book for free from the publisher/author (Simon and Schuster UK Fiction) after making a request via Netgally.com in exchange for an honest review.
The Kindle version of this book was available from October 2017 on Amazon UK, however, the hardback version and publication date in the US was 2nd November 2017. Thanks for the advance copy.
So what’s this book about?
The Rules of Magic (approx 384 pages) has been written as prequel to Ms Hoffman’s popular novel – Practical Magic – however, it can be read as a standalone novel. This book is listed in the contemporary literary fiction genre on Amazon UK – although I feel that a more appropriate description would be Magical Realism – and features natural born witches alongside our human characters.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I don’t post spoilers of any kind or reveal any plot twists in my book reviews, I’ve found a couple of official blurbs. Here’s what the official blurb says on Net Galley and on Amazon UK:
Everyone needs a little magic in their lives… The Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to Practical Magic, to date Alice Hoffman’s biggest selling novel and a major Hollywood film.
In this sparkling prequel we meet sisters Frances and Jet and Vincent, their brother. From the beginning their mother Susanna knew they were unique: Franny with her skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, who could commune with birds; Jet as shy as she is beautiful, who knows what others are thinking, and Vincent so charismatic that he was built for trouble. Susanna needed to set some rules of magic: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles and certainly, absolutely, no books about magic…
But the Owens siblings are desperate to uncover who they really are. Each heads down a life-altering course, filled with secrets and truths, devastation and joy, and magic and love. Despite the warning handed down through the family for centuries – Know that for our family, love is a curse – they will all strive to break the rules and find true love.
And this is the official blurb about the story on Goodreads and Amazon US (Although, I don’t know why there is an alternative blurb and cover):
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.
So, what did I like about it?
Alice Hoffman is a new-to-me author because although I have watched the film version of her novel Practical Magic (and LOVED it), I have not actually read any of her books. I enjoyed the way that Ms Hoffman weaved historical facts and witch related superstitions into her fictional tale to create the setting for the Owens siblings, I think that this helped to make the ‘magic’ seem more believable. In fact, while we’re on the subject of magic, I loved the way that the magic in this book is more old school than new age Wicca. I liked the importance Ms Hoffman placed on knowing yourself, being true to who you are and living your life without doing harm to anyone else; her witchcraft has been crafted with a wisdom I associate with a village wise-woman rather than a wand wielding, broom flying witch, especially Aunt Isabelle who I thought was wonderful.
I like the fact that this book follows the Owens siblings growing and maturing – from the post war 1950’s through to the turbulent 1960’s and ends at the time young Sally and Gillian Owens move in – we witness many types of prejudices and see the implications of the war in Vietnam. For a piece of fiction that is set in America’s turbulent times, I do feel that this story has the right amount of tears, mystery and chuckles for a family saga of this size.
So, ummm, was there anything I disliked about it?
Dislike is too strong an emotion but there were definitely a few things that took the shine off for me.
To begin with, I was perhaps a tad disappointed that this book didn’t grab me with both hands; it was easy to put down.
I felt as though I was observing the tale unfold rather than being immersed in it; I felt as though I was reading a flashback of events that had already happened, without experiencing the complex emotions that would have accompanied them. In other words, at times, I thought that this novel is a third party view of what happened to Franny, Jet & Vincent.
I also found it slightly off putting that that the book didn’t have chapters but was divided into six parts; Intuition, Alchemy, Conjure, Elemental, Gravity and Remedy. Another reviewer mentioned that The Rules of Magic reads more like a screenplay rather than a novel and I know exactly what she means (it will make a fantastic film).
So, basically what I’m saying is…
I enjoyed this book; it was good but it caused me much deliberation over what star rating I would give it! Lol!
I would recommend this book to those of you who enjoy family sagas about love, loyalty, tragedy, prejudice and secret histories within a magical realism setting, but be warned this melancholy but beautiful tale made me cry more than it made me laugh if you don’t mind not getting a Disney-esque happily ever after, then this book could be right up your street.
So, has my review of THE RULES OF MAGIC encouraged you to find out more? Just click on any of the links below to check out the book yourself or to find out more about the author. To see the other books I’ve read, take a look at my profile on Goodreads.
See THE RULES OF MAGIC on Goodreads.com