In the prequel to Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman dives into the world before we meet the beloved sisters we’ve come to know. “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. Yet, the 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 memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.”
Hoffman writes the series in a third person, omniscient kind of view. Her writing is as magical as her storytelling and each character holds up their own unique story, their own wild flaws and intense endings. Hoffman does an incredible job of wrapping magical realism into history as if it were truth and fact. She has quickly become one of my favorite inspirations as an author and I plan on one day owning every book she has written.
There are some shocking twists and turns throughout the book that were a bit unsettling at first, until you realized the reality of how the past twisted into the future.If you don’t like abuse and violence there are definitely some scenes to skip in this book, but you can’t really skip a part without missing a huge chunk of the story. A lot of the violence isn’t detailed in extreme visuals.
The Rules of Magic is the kind of book that you have to sit with for a bit. It took me almost a month to read it. Sometimes the scenes are a lot to take in and sometimes you have to reread a scene or two to take in the full meaning of the scene and understand what Hoffman is doing with her words. It’s honestly just pure magical writing at its finest. I can’t say enough good things about it.
All of the writing flows smoothly and the readers can connect to the emotions built into each
scene, despite the long distance POV. Unlike most of Hoffman’s books, jewish history doesn’t play a front and center role in the book, but in many ways it is still twisted quietly into the background so much so that you need to know Jewish history and culture in order to see the differences. Whether or not that was intentional, it is beautifully written. Like much of Hoffman’s writing, though, nothing is done without purpose.
Because of the POV, it does build a barrier between the characters and the readers. Hoffman does a great job of making them interesting, but with the magical history built into the story, it’s often hard to see them as real people.
I fell in love with the world defined in the movies, but I have fallen in love with Hoffman’s world so much more through the pages of this book. It’s so much more than magic. It’s a historical, realistic fictional telling of what life looked like in the sixties that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s an honest portrayal of the trials and tribulations of family obligations and learning how to define one’s future despite one’s past.
This isn’t your typical Harry Potter wands and spells or Charmed candles and demons. Not everyone will love this book. This is the kind of novel that you either love or hate and sometimes it takes a few pages to fall in love with it. I would suggest that if you start this book, wait until the third or fourth chapter before you give up on it. Trust me, the ending is worth it, though heartbreaking on all accounts.
I would compare this book to Nicholas Sparks meets something a little deeper than Charmed that I can’t think of off the top of my head. Honestly, that might not even be a fair comparison because Hoffman’s work is so unique, it really stands out from the crowd which is what helps send her straight up the New York Best Sellers list with her book series.
I think the real audience for this book series would be those women who love a more literary style of writing like Poe or Hemingway. While not quite as crazy and twisted as the horror authors, it’s definitely magical and crazy in it’s on way and though there’s no wand waving fantasy in this world, the magic stands in a whole unique world by itself. I’d love to know how Hoffman decided the rules of her magic and what, if anything, wasn’t written into the series. I bet there’s a ton of details we don’t even know about that would probably open the world of the book series in a whole new way. Like Maria’s background and a look at the town when the curse began. Who were the first to find out about the curse. Where did the magic come from, and many more I can think of.
This book inspires so much imagination that it creates a magic outside of the magical realism itself that is breathtakingly captivating. It’s the same magic that gave us Practical Magic and many more books that captivate, proving that both Hoffman and her writing voice are literary treasures that can’t and won’t be ignored. Not just this book, but Hoffman’s entire series is one to be added to your bookshelf, whether you like them or not, because they will stand the test of literary time.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give this book a 4.5 star rating, with the half star off for how long it took to get into the book, but the rest was incredibly worth it.