STARRED REVIEW
October 2017

Summer of love and magic

By Alice Hoffman

In Alice Hoffman’s 1995 novel, Practical Magic, sisters Sally and Gillian share a strong sibling bond and a complicated relationship with magic. Their story is rooted in family history and a legend that includes witchcraft, feuds and rejection dating back 200 years. The Rules of Magic fills in the blanks for Practical Magic fans, but it works perfectly as a standalone as well.

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In Alice Hoffman’s 1995 novel, Practical Magic, sisters Sally and Gillian share a strong sibling bond and a complicated relationship with magic. Their story is rooted in family history and a legend that includes witchcraft, feuds and rejection dating back 200 years.

In The Rules of Magic, Hoffman’s prequel to Practical Magic, we learn about the family’s more recent history: the backstory of Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet, Sally and Gillian’s mysterious guardians. Young Franny is redheaded and feisty; she loves science and looks for logical explanations for everything, even their bizarre family traits that can’t be explained. Bridget, called Jet, is shy and so beautiful that boys are literally willing to die to be with her. Their brother, Vincent, is a mysterious heartbreaker, tormented by visions of the future and carrying more secrets than his sisters can imagine. The three siblings are tied together by blood, magic and a curse that dooms any romantic partner they ever love.

Their story is set in the 1960s, and Hoffman weaves cultural and historical references into the novel. It’s the summer solstice meets the “Summer of Love”; spells and potions and superstition rub elbows with riots and music festivals and bellbottoms. Hoffman handles this commingling beautifully, and the fact that her fantasy is grounded in reality makes it feel grittier and more tangible.

The Rules of Magic fills in the blanks for Practical Magic fans, but it works perfectly as a standalone as well. It’s clear why Hoffman is a favorite for fantasy readers: She creates interesting mythologies; she’s able to weave magic into the modern world; and she alludes to the magical properties of herbs and everyday items without overexplaining them and overcomplicating her narratives.

The Rules of Magic is ostensibly about three family members who find all their love stories star-crossed. But the devotion that draws them together as a family forms a bond that proves indestructible and may ultimately be the key to finally breaking the curse that’s haunted their family for generations.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic

By Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781501137471

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