Title/Author: Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
In a nutshell (Publisher):
Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
My verdict: Spellbinding, engrossing and moving. A satisfying prequel to ‘Practical Magic’!
“Do what you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned to you threefold.”
Be warned. This isn’t a happy book. It’s about sadness and spells, loss and love, deaths and despair, crushed hopes and dreams, and yet for me, the pages flew by and I didn’t want the story to end. Like a spell, I was enchanted by the writing and storytelling. I mean, what can I say, it’s Alice Hoffman, and I’m already a fan of the Owens after reading Practical Magic and Rules of Magic, both of which I loved.
It was set during a time when women who were believed to be witches were persecuted. The story was divided into 6 chapters, starting from the year 1664, in a place called Devotion Field in Essex County, England, ending in year 1696 in Salem, Massachusetts.
Maria was born with a star tattoo on the inside of her arm, marking her as a witch, making her a natural in healing and curing, while being guided by her kind, adoptive mother, Hannah Owens, who was a master of the Nameless Art and green magic, but whose life met with a tragic end.
The event that killed Hannah involved her biological mother and love that gone wrong, marred Maria forever and she vowed never to fall in love. But love was in her fate. She met John Hathorne, and couldn’t stop thinking about him while he pursued her shamelessly even though he was already married. It was too late when Maria found out because then she already pregnant with their daughter, Faith. Their relationship didn’t end well.
When Maria was accused of being a witch, she was sentenced to hang. On her hanging day, which she escaped with the help of Samuel Dias, whose life she saved before, she made a curse that men who ever love an Owens, disaster will follow them. And yet, Samuel wouldn’t stop loving her despite her warnings.
Throughout the years, Maria avoided love, always keeping to herself and continued to do what she does best and one that gave her peace – to serve the women who came to her for help, using the knowledge of magic and spells she had accumulated throughout the years. She found friends at the most unexpected places, who in turn, returned her kindness with fierce loyalty.
When the pace picked up at the second half of the book, I couldn’t stop reading. Faith’s life took a sudden turn, Samuel Dias who had been away, decided to return to Maria despite the curse, and Maria decided to seek the woman who took Faith from her. What was to become to all of them? Will there be a happy ending? It was hard to say because I was proven wrong time and time again throughout the story.
There wasn’t one character that was unnecessary or out of place. Everyone had a role to play and I grew to care for most of them especially Maria, who, at a very young age experienced love and loss. She toughened through hardships, loving and trusting cautiously.
Being who she was, Maria was constantly judged, scorned and cursed, and almost lost her life once, but never did she forget what her adoptive mother had taught her – to use her skills and knowledge to help those in need. Not only did her skills save lives and give hope to many, but it also brought her to Samuel, the son of Abraham Dias, captain of a ship that was headed to Boston, where she wanted to go.
The complicated relationship between Samuel and Maria was so tender yet heartbreaking. You could just feel how much they loved each other, and Samuel was so loyal and faithful you just want to beg Maria to forget about her curse and give him a chance! Seeing how Maria took care of Samuel’s father also showed how much Maria loved Samuel.
I also loved Finney, Faith’s one and only friend whom she trusted and cared for. Their bond was unbreakable and Finney was such a devoted friend! Not forgetting Maria and Faith’s familiars – Cadin, Maria’s crow and Keeper, Faith’s wolf. Even they won my heart.
Reading this was also saddening because we’d be shown how single women were treated during those times, especially women like Maria, who was skillful, knowledgeable and most of all, knew the art of healing. Life for women like Maria, wasn’t easy, all because they were different.
Despite that, their services were called upon when all else failed, but they would also be the first to be cursed and blamed when things go wrong. Juni, one of Maria’s friend had said, “I’m the same as you. Not a slave and not free. That’s another way of saying we’re nothing.” And Salem, Massachusetts was well-known for its witch trials.
I was so captivated by the story, my eyes and mind were glued to the pages, not one minute my attention wavered. I read while I cooked resulting in getting my left ring finger burned; I read while walking up and down the stairs, almost slipping once, I read while the family watched TV. I haven’t read like this in a long while.
‘Magic Lessons’ is a highly imaginative, well-told fairy tale. Suspend disbelief, let the book do its magic and enjoy the journey!
For fans of the Owens, this is a must-read! I think this will be a good start too if you’re interested in getting started with the Practical Magic series!
Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing the free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Another book by Alice Hoffman which I enjoyed and have reviewed is The World That We Knew.
Have you read this Magic Lessons? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Are you also a fan of Alice Hoffman? Have you read any other books by her? Please share with me your thoughts!