Being kind of a fan of Alice Hoffman’s, I loved Magic Lessons from the very start! I didn’t even doubt I would. I have loved the entire Practical Magic series, as spaced out over the decades as it was, but I think I loved Magic Lessons by far the most. I got immediately attached to the main character, Maria, and the tone of the story was just so good.
If you have read the Practical Magic series, Magic Lessons will be a definite treat for you, but I can recommend reading it even if you haven’t heard of the books before – I’m almost 100% sure I would have loved it just as much if I hadn’t even read the books or known the story beforehand, or perhaps only watched the movie and then read this one.
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★★★★☆ 4 stars
How I read this:
free review copy through Edelweiss
Magic Lessons tells the story of the original Owens witch, the first one that came to the Western lands, the one mentioned originally in Practical Magic as the woman who started it all, the woman who starts both the curse, as well as the family lore.
Being a prequel, the interesting thing about Magic Lessons, is that you kind of know the outlines of what will happen, because you’ve already read two books, perhaps watched the movie as well. But you’d be surprised by the amount of things you didn’t actually know! Alice Hoffman still finds it easy to enchant the reader with the wonderful story of Magic Lessons.
Maria Is An Incredibly Strong Woman
I really loved Maria’s character. From the very start, she is such a strong-willed person. Life is not easy – Maria is abandoned as a child, later sold to work an indentured slave, and that’s nothing to the things that will come later.
She has no one but her crow – but she does not despair. She is tough, sturdy and she will not break. She doesn’t even seem to think ill of fate for making her life like this. She just accepts it and goes along with everything, trying to choose what’s best, among the choices she’s given.
Her character was very admirable for me. Certainly I wish I had some of her traits – the sureness of choice, the strength of character that she displayed. I loved reading about Maria.
An image of the cover of Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman on my Pocketbook, on the floor with various items strewn about, like candles, garlands, candy; photo by AvalinahsBooksAlice Hoffman crafts a very strong character in Maria Owens, the original Owens witch of the Pratical Magic series. Maria is a delight to read about: Click To Tweet
The Theme Of Strong Women As A Danger To Patriarchy
Magic Lessons is a book about witches, so naturally it’s about the power women hold and how those in power wish to subdue it. There were a lot of these themes in the book, and I loved how they were presented.
But don’t get me wrong – not all men in this book use women to their ends, and they certainly aren’t demonized. Some men are sons, and some are hubands or brothers. Some of them understand that this is wrong. It’s never only black or white – and this story incorporates so many shades of the truth, of life.Magic Lessons doesn't use women's tragedy for the sake of horror – instead, it shows strength and resilience through it. It's the story of women who were just too big for the world: Click To Tweet
There were many women depicted or at least mentioned in the story – women with complicated destinies, women with opinions, convictions and goals that didn’t go along with what society deemed to be correct or allowed. Some of these destinies seemed cruel and painful, but nearly always the stories represented strength, willingness to persist, power of the heart. This theme is common in most stories by Alice Hoffman and it’s something I’ve always loved about her writing – and this is also where Magic Lessons doesn’t disappoint. It certainly keeps this theme alive and thriving.
Another image of the cover of Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman on my Pocketbook, more close up, on the floor with various items strewn about; photo by AvalinahsBooks
You Get Very Involved In Maria’s Story
As Alice Hoffman often likes to do, in Magic Lessons there are hints as to what will happen, a sort of predestined feel that runs with all of the narrative. This is even more apparent for a prequel like this book.
So from the very start we find out bits and pieces about how Maria’s life is going to turn out. And every time she is about to make a mistake, perhaps a mistake many of us can relate to from our own emotional younger years, you can’t help but feeling like you want to scream at the page and tell her, NO, NO, NO! DON’T DO THIS!Magic Lessons immediately draws you in - you want to leap onto the page and stop the main character from suffering. But you know the story has to run its course: Click To Tweet
Maria grows up seeing what the wrong kind of love does to women’s lives – how the feeling destroys them, how the wrong man betrays them, worse – how he throws them to the wolves. But like many young women, although she thinks it will never happen to her, there is always that one time when we’re caught unaware and submit to the feeling that takes us over. That is the undoing of Maria, and despite knowing she will have to go through her destiny from the very start of the book, you still want to somehow stop it, somehow save her from those bitter experiences, protect her from the danger.
A Story Of Broken Love, And A Story Of Love Broken
For many women, this is a situation only all too familiar – when she is ready to love, she cannot be loved by a worthy person, instead she gets her heart broken time and again by someone not worthy of trust. And once her heart has been broken once too many, there comes a man who is indeed worthy of having it, but the woman has no more heart to give – or no more trust to give it.
This is the story of Magic Lessons too – Maria Owens gives her heart to someone she should have never trusted, despite all sense. But when the right man comes along, she is already broken. It is the saddest kind of story, but it lays the perfect groundwork to what follows next, in the other books of the Practical Magic series – the curse of Maria Owens, a curse meant to protect all her kin to come.
Sadly, curses never really work in the positive, so it was truly heartbreaking to behold how Maria loves, but cannot love, won’t allow herself to love, because she believes love can only harm. It is masterfully written, because Alice Hoffman tends to write these kinds of stories unbelievably well.Magic Lessons – a masterfully written story of broken love, and a story of love broken – a brilliant prequel to Practical Magic. Click To Tweet
Magic Lessons is yet another success by Alice Hoffman. Time and again, she proves that she can write amazing, wistful, magical female characters who keep their feminine side, despite being strong, practical and not letting their hard destiny have the upper hand. If you are looking for more wonderful books by Alice Hoffman, I have reviewed some others I can definitely recommend here and here. As for Magic Lessons – read it! Even if you haven’t read the books it’s the prequel to, I think you’d like it anyway – it’s pretty independent as a story, and in my opinion, it’s the best of the books in the series.Practical Magic concludes, or rather begins, with an amazing prequel – Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman: Click To Tweet
I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
Have you read the Practical Magic series or at least seen the movie?
Do you enjoy reading stories of women’s resilience despite the terrible odds and danger?
I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.