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Magic Lessons

by Alice Hoffman

Publishers Weekly Hoffman’s striking latest entry in her Practical Magic series (after The Rules of Magic) turns to 1664 rural England for the origin story of Maria Owens, matriarch of the series’ clan of witches. Maria is discovered as an infant by Hannah Owens, a practitioner of the “Nameless Art” who raises Maria and teaches her natural remedies and witchcraft. As a girl, Maria has an innate sense of magic and emulates Hannah’s desire to help the scores of women who secretly come to her for help—mostly for problems with their love lives. After Maria is reclaimed at age 10 by her birth mother, Rebecca, another Nameless Art practitioner, Maria comes to understand—like other heroines in Hoffman’s “Magic” books—that love can be unexpectedly overpowering. Maria becomes ensnared in a complicated relationship and has a daughter out of wedlock. As Maria’s story takes her from England to Massachusetts and New York, Hoffman offers an eye-opening account of how single women were treated in the 17th century, particularly when their knowledge or intelligence was deemed threatening. While the musings on “enchantments and remedies” grow repetitive, Maria’s page-turning adventure is thoroughly enjoyable. Hoffman’s redemptive story of a fiercely independent woman adds an engrossing, worthwhile chapter to the series. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list In 1600s England, Hannah Owens teaches the Nameless Art to a foundling child, Maria, a natural witch with power flowing through her bloodline. Basic tenets: Always love someone who will love you back. What you send out into the world, you will receive back threefold. When Maria meets John Hathorne and he subsequently leaves for his home of Salem, Massachusetts, she sets out after him, intent upon sharing a life. Things in Salem are not what she had envisioned, but Maria knows that “if you had the strength, you could change your fate.” This prequel to Hoffman's Practical Magic (2017) reveals how the Owens women, who also appear in The Rules of Magic (1995), came to be cursed. In Hoffman’s simple but luminous prose, all characters, even the villains, are not only vividly, but also compassionately, rendered. Descriptions of magic combine with herbology and folk remedy. Hoffman adeptly highlights that how one uses a talent, selflessly or selfishly, has a sweeping impact on many lives, meaning that one should always choose courage, and that love is the only answer.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hoffman's best-seller level fans, and all looking for wisely magical reads, will be seek this new tale about the powerful Owens women.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Set in late-17th-century England and America, the pre-prequel to Hoffmans Practical Magic (1995) and The Rules of Magic (2017) covers the earliest generations of magically empowered Owens women and the legacy they created.In 1664, Hannah Owens, practitioner of the Nameless Art sometimes called witchcraft, finds baby Maria abandoned near her isolated cottage in Essex County, England. She lovingly teaches ancient healing methods to Maria, whose star birthmark indicates inherent magical powers; and since Hannah considers ink and paper the most powerful magic, she also teaches Maria reading and writing. After vengeful men murder Hannah in 1674, Maria escapes first to her unmotherly birth mother, a troubled practitioner of dark, self-serving magic, then to Curaao as an indentured servant. At 15 she is seduced by 37-year-old American businessman John Hathorne (his name an allusion to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about mistreatment of marked women). Enchanted by the island, Puritan Hathorne loses his rigidity long enough to impregnate Maria before returning to Salem, Massachusetts, without saying goodbye. Maria, with new daughter Faith, whose birthmark is a half-moon, follows him. The ship on which she travels is captained by a Sephardic Jew who gives her passage in return for treating his sons dengue fever, an excuse for Hoffman to link two long-standing unfair persecutionsof smart women as witches and Jews as, well, Jews. That Maria will find a truer love with warmhearted Jewish sailor Sam than with icy Hathorne makes sense in terms of later Owens womens stories. For the earlier books to work, Maria must found her female dynasty in Salem, but first she and Faith face betrayals, mistakes, and moral challenges. Maria uses her powers to help others but often misreads her own future with devastating results; separated from Maria during her childhood, emotionally damaged Faith is tempted to use her grandmothers selfish left-handed magic.Master storyteller Hoffmans tale pours like cream but is too thick with plot redundancies and long-winded history lessons. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus Set in late-17th-century England and America, the pre-prequel to Hoffman’s Practical Magic (1995) and The Rules of Magic (2017) covers the earliest generations of magically empowered Owens women and the legacy they created. In 1664, Hannah Owens, practitioner of “the Nameless Art” sometimes called witchcraft, finds baby Maria abandoned near her isolated cottage in Essex County, England. She lovingly teaches ancient healing methods to Maria, whose star birthmark indicates inherent magical powers; and since Hannah considers ink and paper the most powerful magic, she also teaches Maria reading and writing. After vengeful men murder Hannah in 1674, Maria escapes first to her unmotherly birth mother, a troubled practitioner of dark, self-serving magic, then to Curaçao as an indentured servant. At 15 she is seduced by 37-year-old American businessman John Hathorne (his name an allusion to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about mistreatment of marked women). Enchanted by the island, Puritan Hathorne loses his rigidity long enough to impregnate Maria before returning to Salem, Massachusetts, without saying goodbye. Maria, with new daughter Faith, whose birthmark is a half-moon, follows him. The ship on which she travels is captained by a Sephardic Jew who gives her passage in return for treating his son’s dengue fever, an excuse for Hoffman to link two long-standing unfair persecutions—of smart women as witches and Jews as, well, Jews. That Maria will find a truer love with warmhearted Jewish sailor Sam than with icy Hathorne makes sense in terms of later Owens women’s stories. For the earlier books to work, Maria must found her female dynasty in Salem, but first she and Faith face betrayals, mistakes, and moral challenges. Maria uses her powers to help others but often misreads her own future with devastating results; separated from Maria during her childhood, emotionally damaged Faith is tempted to use her grandmother’s selfish “left-handed” magic. Master storyteller Hoffman’s tale pours like cream but is too thick with plot redundancies and long-winded history lessons. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list In 1600s England, Hannah Owens teaches the Nameless Art to a foundling child, Maria, a natural witch with power flowing through her bloodline. Basic tenets: Always love someone who will love you back. What you send out into the world, you will receive back threefold. When Maria meets John Hathorne and he subsequently leaves for his home of Salem, Massachusetts, she sets out after him, intent upon sharing a life. Things in Salem are not what she had envisioned, but Maria knows that “if you had the strength, you could change your fate.” This prequel to Hoffman's Practical Magic (2017) reveals how the Owens women, who also appear in The Rules of Magic (1995), came to be cursed. In Hoffman’s simple but luminous prose, all characters, even the villains, are not only vividly, but also compassionately, rendered. Descriptions of magic combine with herbology and folk remedy. Hoffman adeptly highlights that how one uses a talent, selflessly or selfishly, has a sweeping impact on many lives, meaning that one should always choose courage, and that love is the only answer.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hoffman's best-seller level fans, and all looking for wisely magical reads, will be seek this new tale about the powerful Owens women.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.