Magic Lessons

Most of the books I read these days are Advanced Reading Copies. I try not to post reviews too far ahead of time, but lately, everything great that I’ve got in my stack is a Fall release. This prequel falls into that category with an October 6 release date.

Although this is part of a series, you do not need to have read either Practical Magic or The Rules of Magic to have a satisfying reading experience with this story. If you have read and loved either of these books, you’ll also want to read it. Practical Magic published first in the 1990’s has endured in its popularity in part due to the 1998 movie version. The Rules of Magic is the prequel to that story with the Aunts’ childhood explored through the 1960s-1970s. Adding this prequel and going back to the 1600s leaves plenty of books/time to cover many years and Owens women to catch up until now. I’m hoping for more Owens stories!

Maria Owens is a name known as the witch who cursed all men who would love an Owens woman to an early death. It isn’t too much else said about her in Practical Magic, and we know that she lived during the Salem Witch Trials and that she was so broken-hearted that she wished to save future Owens women from similar heartache. In this novel, we read Maria’s story when she is an infant left behind by her biological mother for kind Hannah Owens to find and raise.

In many ways, this book reads more like historical fiction than the first two installments.

Maria becomes involved with John Hathorne, who was a judge during the Salem Witch trials, a rather evil one who never apologized for his actions, and who was also the great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, who may have added the w to his name to distance himself from his family.

Alice Hoffman in an interview with Library Journal

Once you add real people into a fictional story, it becomes undeniably more plausible that the story may be more accurate than not. I adored those details in this story. Maria travels from the old world to the new and then within the colonies, and the story turns and twists through real events, all while staying true to these fictional character arcs. ( And yes, I know the definition of magical realism)

The origin of Maria Owens wasn’t a happy story, yet it is compelling in its realism. I felt like this is the perfect book to read in 2020, when so many of us are awash in terrible circumstances.

The traditional rules of magic ring true:

“Do as you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned threefold.” 

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