In her second novel in the Practical Magic series, Alice Hoffman masterfully weaves in the elements of time and antecedents while also creating a stand-alone story. The Rules of Magic invites readers on a journey that requires no previous knowledge of the existing narrative. It briefly touches on the history that precedes the lives of the current characters without being redundant, which makes it a suitable read for those new to the series and those already familiar with the Owens family.
The Rules of Magic, the prequel to Practical Magic and sequel to Magic Lessons, largely takes place in New York City in the late 1950s. The story follows three siblings— Franny, Jet, and Vincent—as their mother, Susanna, tries to protect them from their true lineage—bloodline witches. She sets stern rules against the possession of cats, crows, red shoes, and books on magic. She wards them against walks in the moonlight and, the ultimate curse, falling in love. However she tries, fate inevitably prevails.
Each sibling is aware of their uniqueness, but blind as to what certain oddities in their lives actually mean. Until one day their great-Aunt Isabelle, current resident of the Owens home back in Massachusetts, sends a letter to the eldest, Franny. Newly seventeen, Franny is invited to stay with Isabelle for a summer. Reluctantly, Susanna agrees to let her go and the two younger siblings tag along. It’s a summer of discovery, as the bloodline of Maria Owens reveals itself. The children watch their witchcraft unfold, as the unexpected spells they place on the world around them come out of the darkness. They are teased, ignored, and loved all the same. It’s a summer of change, and where a new destiny begins.
Upon their return to New York City each sibling finds trouble of their own, despite some of their best attempts to avoid certain fates. Stubborn, red headed Franny falls in love only to push it away time and time again; shy, black haired Jet becomes the focal point of tragedy that alters her family life forever; and charming Vincent stumbles through black magic to unearth who he truly is and the unescapable future that awaits him. Less about magic and more about love, The Rules of Magic might best be described as story of siblings who experience the ebbs and flows of change. Magic acts as an unspoken connection to one another during a lifetime of personal and cultural distress, and becomes the glue that holds the family together.
The Rules of Magic sets the stage for Practical Magic, while still maintaining a certain unpredictability. It’s not until the very end of the novel that the identity of the next story is revealed, exactly how it should be. Alice Hoffman’s work is captivating. Every word, every sentence, every page brings to life a world of magic, mystery, love, and adventure. Once the true rules of magic are revealed practical magic then comes into play.