Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic #0.1)

My five word TL:DR Review : History, witch hunts, family, love

magiclessonsMagic Lessons is a sequel to The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic and in fact gives Hoffman the opportunity to go back to the beginning of the Owen’s curse.  In this instalment we jump back to the 1600s where a baby girl has been left abandoned in a snow covered field until she is lucky enough to be taken in by Hannah Owens, a woman known for practising the Unknown Arts.  The baby, named Maria Owens is taught everything she needs to know by Hannah who recognises immediately the girl’s potential.

We then follow Maria on her journey of loss, heartbreak, motherhood and love.

What I really liked about this is the story, finding out about the legend behind the Owen’s family curse, plus finding that events take us to Salem not to mention a number of other places along the way.  There is a lot more ‘magic’ in this book than I’d found in the previous instalment, perhaps as a result of the time depicted when superstition played a major role and then on top of this there’s the history behind the fear and hysteria of the period that resulted in the witch hunts.  

This is certainly a book full of witchery.  There are lists of ingredients and discussions of grimoires with knowledge being passed down between females and definitely a feeling of women coming together – although of course this isn’t always the case with jealousy and envy sometimes taking a sneaky peak.

I wouldn’t particularly call this a cheery book and in some respects it misses the lighter nature of some of Hoffman’s other stories.  The time depicted was tough, people lived hard lives and women more often than not didn’t have a voice.

In terms of the characters I liked Maria.  She overcame much before fully understanding the nature of her own earlier lessons, as did her daughter.  Unfortunately, even though they had certain lessons drilled into them over the course of the years it took experience and age for the lessons to really gain relevance.  Love is the only thing that matters.  Do as you will, but harm no one.  What you will give will be returned to you threefold. 

Criticisms.  Well, there was a little bit of repetition here, such as the lists of remedies, but, for me this give relevance to the fact that women, no matter where they were in the world, found remedies and cure alls and I enjoyed this aspect to the story.  I think the only thing I would observe here is that this one has a different feel, for me, than the author’s other books.  Of course the story is a sweeping one filled with love, hate, passion and even redemption but the darker tone and narrative style give it less of the charm and whimsy of some of Hoffman’s previous work. 

Overall I think this was a very apt story that really does provide a great set up for the Owen’s and their family curse.

I received a copy through netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 out of 5 stars




19 Responses to “Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic #0.1)”

  1. Tammy

    I was wondering if this would feel different from her other books, I think because of the time period it’s set in. But I’m still anxious to read it, even if it sounds like you didn’t enjoy it quite as much. Maybe I can fit it in next month, lol.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I liked it, and in many ways I think the tone and style should be different because of the story itself. I didn’t love this as much as hre other books, it is good but it doesn’t have that charm that some of her others does. There are some harsh themes but its still definitely worth reading to get the back story.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Kate

    I think I’d like to read this, but I haven’t read any of her other books. It sounds really good, though!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I would probably choose Practical Magic as a starting point 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I would still love to read The Rules of Magic, I think the concept of this book is interesting, and of course the fact it is about witches 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed this but it doesn’t have quite the charm of her other work – it’s still good but feels different and I think given the nature of the story here that’s quite appropriate.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    In recent times I have found many reviews of stories about witches and witchcraft, which leads me to think that it must be a so-called “hot” topic in fantasy narrative: in this particular case I’m intrigued by your description of “love, hate, passion and redemption” as the central themes of the novel, and I think I would love to read this one 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think it would be really interesting to see someone read these in reverse. I wonder how they would read and I’m tempted to do that not the thought has occurred. This is a very intriguing story and I enjoyed it, it just doesn’t quite have the charm that I expect from Hoffman.
      Lynn 😀

  5. pagesandtea

    I think I’ll add this to my TBR list mainly because I already have the other two books, but (of course) I still haven’t read them yet 😀 Out of interest, of the previous books which would you recommend reading first, or doesn’t it matter too much?

    • @lynnsbooks

      Now you mention it I’m not sure tbh. I think it would be interesting to see how these books feel if read in chronological order starting with this one.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Carmen

    I agree that this book has a different feel, particularly to Practical Magic that was so delightful. I found it repetitious as well.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, definitely a feel of repetition, in some respects I didn’t mind it, for example the lists, it felt like Hoffman was trying to instill the idea that women the world over are the same in terms of collecting herbs and remedies that are all very similar.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Ola G

    Would you recommend Hoffman’s books as a whole, Lynn? Do you have a favorite? I’m trying to decide whether to invest in reading them 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      I like her books. She has a lovely writing style and quite a variety of books. Some of her books rely on magical realism or whimsy and are written in a sort of charming way. Others are more realistic reimaginings. I enjoyed Practical Magic Rules of Magic and this one (although this wasn’t my favourite). The Dovekeepers is quite fascinating and very different and based on true events. I also really enjoyed The World that We Knew which is set during WW2 and based on the stories of three women. It has fantasy elements to it and is really unusual and intriguing.
      Lynn 😀

      • Ola G

        Thanks for the recs! 😀 I’ll check one of these out 🙂

  8. waytoofantasy

    I was really curious about this one after reading Practical Magic a year or two ago….and having seen that new stories were coming out in this universe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • @lynnsbooks

      There’s also Rules of Magic which is also part of the same storyline and was released before Magic Lessons.
      Lynn 😀

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