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