Review: The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman

Posted 3 November, 2017 by Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms in Reviews / 7 Comments

*I received a free copy of The Rules of Magic from via Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *

Review: The Rules of Magic – Alice HoffmanThe Rules of Magic Series: Practical Magic #0
on 10 October 2017
Pages: 369
5 Stars

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.

The Rules of Magic is a melancholy tale, spanning over the sixties and up until the present time, following three siblings who had to follow some very strict rules when they were young.

Review - (un)Conventional Bookviews


I enjoyed The Rules of Magic both because it is a great story that can stand on its own, and because it brought some important insight into the world of Practical Magic. Hofmann manages to write magical realism so well it seems completely legitimate, and I found myself rooting for the three siblings, even when what they were up to put them and others in grave danger. Breaking the rules became second nature to all three siblings after they spent a summer with their aunt. Because the rules didn’t apply there.

The Rules of Magic isn’t only about magic, though, it really is about family history. You know how, sometimes, a big family secret can cripple all the members of a family? Even those who don’t know about the secret? That’s partly what happened in this story. Susanna tried so hard to keep her children safe that she didn’t give them all the necessary information for them to safely survive out in the real world. She only gave them half-truths or all out lies, and when they had to make it on their own, it was with great difficulty.

More than anything else, I think The Rules of Magic is the story of belonging. The Owen siblings didn’t really feel like they belonged anywhere. Not even at home with their parents. Between the strict rules and all the things they could never talk about, they felt rather lost. And this continued as they grew older. They were loyal to each other, with a very strong sense of family. As they learned little by little, this was not always enough.

The Rules of Magic made me want to re-read Practical Magic, and I also hope there will be more books in this univers so filled with mystical energy and love.


Frances is the oldest of the Owen siblings, she could commune with birds, and did so, even when her mom forbid her to.

Bridget, or Jet, is the middle child. She was the one who was serious and seemingly law-abiding. However, when she broke the rules, she did so in such a way that the consequences of her actions touched all of the characters.

Vincent is the youngest, he seemed like the guy who didn’t care about anything, and that could very well have been because he cared way too much.

Susanna and Dr. Burke-Owen were only side characters. They were important for the overall story, but their roles when they were present were not all that big.

Writing style :

The Rules of Magic has a third person omniscient narrator that shares the story in the past tense. The reader ends up knowing more about the Owens than they do themselves, and this somehow makes the mystery even more mysterioius.

Feels :

Melancholy, love, loyalty and a great dose of sadness.

Fave Quotes - (un)Conventional Bookviews

Her penchant for the rules only made her children more curious. Why did their mother draw the curtains on May Day, leaving them in the dark? Why did she wear sunglasses on moonlit nights? Why did she panic when they ran out of salt and quickly rush down to buy some at the market?

“Not very welcoming,” Jet said in a worried tone as the neighbors glared at them. “To hell with them,” Fanny remarked. Had her sister learned nothing at the Starling School? Other people’s judgements were meaningless unless you allowed them to mean something.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

About Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms

Linda is an English as foreign language teacher and has a Master's degree in English Language and Literature. She's an avid reader, blogger, compulsive one-clicker and a genre omnivore. Ever since she learnt how to read she has been seen with a book or two in her hands everywhere she goes.

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7 responses to “Review: The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman

  1. I had heard of this book before but I had no idea it was so deep and meaningful. I really want to read it now. I especially relate to it being about siblings – because I have three sisters myself. I think the idea of it being about rules and breaking them intrigues me, especially as you mentioned that it stems around a big family secret that blends into everyone despite them not all knowing everything. I have a love hate relationship with magical realism, so I’m trying more of them to see if it’s a genre for me!

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