I love witchy reads, and most especially Practical Magic. Or anything by Alice Hoffman, honestly. Her way of writing takes the everyday and the fairytale and blends them. After all, fairytales were created to help us navigate life and avoid danger. I love how she is able to take you on a journey with her characters, and there’s a sense of magic and magic realism, but there’s also a way that she helps us see the way home, to ourselves, how to process the things we did to survive or how to process things that we go through and make a beautiful meaning out of them. Practical Magic does this, by taking us into the lives of Gillian and Sally Owens, as they return home to their aunts and accept the witchy side of themselves and face the problems that they’ve created or inherited. It’s a lovely book and has plenty of 90’s vibes too. Since then, Hoffman has written prequels about the Owens family, and in this book, she writes what happened next, to all the characters, after the events of Practical Magic.
I thought that this book would be more about the daughters of Sally Owens, Kylie and Antonia, but there’s a lot of Vincent, Jet and Frannie, and Sally. It’s more of an ensemble. The book also focuses on ending the family curse: that any man who loves an Owens is doomed to die….
This book feels like a love letter to books. It starts and ends in a library. It references a lot of books throughout. And it’s also about the books of magic that witches use, the family grimoire. It’s a bookish book. I thought that was really nice.
I really enjoyed sinking into this world and spending time with these characters again, and if you like witchy reads or dark academia or magic realism, it’s a really good entry into the genre. I think you can read it if you haven’t read the others, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you have read them first. The characters will mean more to you if you’ve been on the whole journey with them and know all the small things that are references to things in earlier books.
That said, and I hate to say this, I feel that this is the weakest in the series. The book starts with undoing the endings of Practical Magic, and focuses on once again ending the curse, which feels like a rehash. Since in the other books, characters find ways around the curse a lot and I may be remembering incorrectly, but I thought they had broken the curse in Practical Magic, well, I was hoping for learning about Kylie and Antonia and what gifts they have, what lessons they’ll learn. What paths they might take. Seeing how Gillian and Sally are doing. I felt like Kylie and Antonia were a little underwritten, really, as the book focuses on going over some familiar plots and focuses most on Jet and Frannie, Sally, Vincent and sometimes Gillian. There were also certain things in the ending that I really felt didn’t feel quite right. But I won’t say more in case of spoilers.
Speaking of writing, this book had less richness to it. It felt less philosophical than some of her others, less fairytale, and a little more modern in style. It’s less philosophical somehow. The magic is all still there though, which is still really solid and really something that Hoffman always has an excellent handle on.
I think this book is so much better than most witchy reads or magic realism that is on the market. They are often really shallow or cheesey or their internal logic just isn’t there, but this doesn’t do that. It’s a good book and I liked spending more time with the Owens family. But out of the four in this series, it’s my least favourite.
Read It If: you love books about witches, gothic romances, magic realism, or if you’re a fan of the series, it’s a lovely world to spend time in.
Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the advance copy of this book for review.
The Book Of Magic is out October 5, you can pre-order it now.