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The Rules of Magic


The Rules of Magic

Alice Hoffman’s THE RULES OF MAGIC --- a prequel to PRACTICAL MAGIC, which inspired the Hollywood film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman --- is as enchanting as it is heart-rending. When it comes to love in the Owens family, you can run, but you can’t hide. A curse looms over each generation, haunting children and adults alike. Nothing can save them --- not their wits, piercing looks or powers --- except maybe love itself, however twisted the idea may be.

Jet, Franny and Vincent Owens know they are different from the other kids at their Upper East Side private school. For one, they dress in all black. Secondly, anyone who dares cross them suffers from a bout of bad luck. Their classmates soon come to realize this and stay away from the family as if they reek of doom.

"THE RULES OF MAGIC is written with words that are as elegant and enigmatic as the story’s atmosphere."

The fate of the children begins to set in motion when Franny, the eldest sibling --- with fire-red hair and a personality to match --- receives an invitation from Aunt Isabelle to spend the summer in her Massachusetts home. Of course, Jet and Vincent wish to tag along, curious about the truth of what they feel deep inside. It’s Franny’s mother, Susanna --- fearful of the Owens curse and the truth about her family --- who is afraid of what the summer will stir up. Susanna is an Owens and ran so far away from love that it will eventually kill her. In this book, no one can escape love, and nothing can stop it, not even magic.   

In Massachusetts, the Owens children are more admired than feared by the locals, and their aunt is indeed a witch. The ladies who parade into her home begging for love potions prove it. Jet, the middle child, is hauntingly beautiful, with shining black hair and features that cast a spell on the young men who step into her path. Vincent becomes the obsession of married women. His devil-may-care attitude and spellbinding musical skills make him one of the most compelling characters in the novel. Being loved by many may seem wonderful, but when you can’t love back because of the curse --- the curse that makes people die --- you are constantly living on the edge of life.

It turns out that the curse began with a spell cast by Maria Owens, the siblings’ ancestor and a witch who fell in love with a powerful married man. He claimed to love her, and gave her the home in which generations of the Owens family will eventually reside, yet he accused her of witchcraft and broke her heart. To Maria, love was a curse in and of itself. She didn’t want her ancestors to experience the pain she felt.

However, the Owens sisters break the rules and fall in love, even if the rule is impossible to begin with. The passion here is unmatched; everyone is beautiful, empathetic and mysterious. Throughout the novel, the reader understands that living in fear isn’t a life at all, that ignoring the truth of who you are is the real curse, and that maybe there are second chances for all who believe in them.

THE RULES OF MAGIC is written with words that are as elegant and enigmatic as the story’s atmosphere. Throughout the novel, we’re introduced to wild and captivating cousins, children wise beyond their years, magical animals, unlikely friendships, and a town and city that are both mystical and uptight. It’s a world in which we’d like to live, if only for a day. Even though there is heartache and loss, it mirrors real life, and overall the world is just such fun.

Reviewed by Bianca Ambrosio on October 13, 2017

The Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman