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Magic Lessons

5 stars
20,970 (42%)
4 stars
19,593 (39%)
3 stars
6,977 (14%)
2 stars
1,291 (2%)
1 star
370 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,619 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,300 reviews43.9k followers
September 14, 2022
For the love of Owens Family and desperately seeking of my true witchy heritance: this prologue is FAN-TAC-TIC! It’s darker, more intense, more terrifying, grueling, petrifying and extremely emotional. It awakes entire feelings inside of you: hatred, passion, love, regret, horror, shame, guilt, apathy, disgust, sadness. You got exhausted after those emotional gut punches.

We’re moving to the 1600s to the beginning of the story to meet with Helen: mother of Maria to learn more about Owens bloodline. Helen finds abandoned baby in the snowy field in rural England. Helen becomes mentor, mother, teacher of the girl and her lessons starts with “Unnamed Arts”.
Gifted girl learns the most important lesson from Helen: “she has to love someone who loves her back”

It was slow beginning but when you stay patient and read more, you realize the characters of the book start growing on you and you need to read more about them. Instead of feeling sympathy, you start to adore their achievements, women power and you feel connected with their stories, past and present. This is remarkable mother-daughter, betrayal, avenging, love story. If they’re not cursed, you may voluntarily want to be part of the Owens family.

Maria’s journey only starts because of love but when love turns into passionate obsession it may also bring its curse within’. She follows the love who left her behind and summons the curse into their family life will haunt them forever.
I’m not gonna give much spoiler because this will ruin the essence of the book but I honestly say if you read the other two books of the series, this is amazing beginning to give enough information for you to understand the reasons behind most of the events and more juicy facts about family dynamics. You got the most of the answers that you need. And I advise you, after reading this prequel, you gotta read: “Practical Magic” and “The Rules of the Magic” ( If you haven’t read, this is a bliss so you gotta understand family’s story chronologically and every piece of puzzle will make more sense to you. But if you already read it: you got a brand new perspective and brighter, more clear look to the characters’ evolving with your second time reading.)

Overall: It started slow but as you give not only your full concentration but also your whole heart and clear mind to this story, it enchants and mesmerizes you. As a result you never want to put it down and after finishing it, you keep thinking about those remarkably memorable characters because they already became a part of you: you may find pieces of yourself as you read their journeys.

I’m giving well-deserved, magical, witchery five stars!

So much thanks to NetGalley and Simon&Schuster for sharing this fantastic ARC with me in exchange my honest review.

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,704 reviews25k followers
September 26, 2020
Magic pours from the pen of the phenomenally gifted Alice Hoffman in this 17th century set historical fiction located in England, Dutch Curacao, Salem in Massachusetts, and New York City, to follow the life of Maria Owens. As an abandoned babe in the snow, Maria acquires Cadin, the black crow and familiar before being rescued and taken in by the kindest of witches, Hannah Owens. Maria is raised and trained in the school of green magic, blending the soul of the witch with that of the soul of the earth, rooted in helping and healing those in need, to do no harm, as what is done comes back threefold. In a time of plague and fire, the huge numbers of deaths, women healers are viewed as witches that must be put to death. A grieving Maria sets sail for Dutch Curacao, sold as an indentured servant for 5 years by her blood father.

It is there that Maria forgets the warnings of love learned when she falls for untrustworthy Salem man, John Hathorne, who runs out on her. A pregnant Maria gives birth to her daughter Faith, taking her to Boston and Salem in her search for Hathorne, on route meeting and healing Samuel Dias, navigator and robber, a true love that Maria is too blind to see. Salem brings further betrayal and pain, culminating in the origins of the family curse made by Maria, and her imprisonment as a witch. Dark forces and fate wreaks further grief and a move to New York and Samuel's home. It may take years to learn the hard and costly lesson, but the bloodline of a witch can't be cured, charmed, changed or forced to obey. This is a narrative of the wonders of magic and the natural world, heartache, tragedies, sorrows, grief, loss, love, bitterness, mental and emotional damage, revenge and the true power of witchcraft.

Magic recipes and spells drip throughout this beguiling and spellbinding storytelling, of black soap, black mirrors, blue thread, courage tea and so much more, including forays into the darker aspects of the magical arts, such as the pursuit of revenge. However, the highest and most overriding of lessons, the greatest magic and miracle, is that everywhere, at all times of history, with its immense power to overcome curses, love is the answer. Hoffman is an astonishingly gifted writer, venerating women, their powers to heal, with all their flaws, facing a world that so often sees them as the enemy, sinners to be put to death and eradicated. Simply brilliant and highly recommended. Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for an ARC.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,192 followers
October 21, 2020
Pure magic in every way !

To anyone who doesn’t want to read this because they don’t believe in magic or witchcraft, you will be missing out because this is about so much more. To those of you who loved the Owens family from Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, I think you might love this one, too. I can’t say that I believe in magic or witchcraft, but I believe in the magic that Hoffman so eloquently speaks of in a letter to her readers at the beginning of the book - the magic of stories. The letter is a gorgeous testament to the beauty of storytelling that she masters.

Hoffman takes us back to the 1600’s and the beginnings of the Owens’ family love curse with the story of Maria Owens and her daughter Faith . Yes, there is witchcraft and the magic of potions and curses and spells, but there is also magic easy to believe in, the magic of healing, the magic of kindness, the magic of love. There is also Hoffman’s magical writing that had me under a spell and helped me to escape, for a while anyway, from the things happening in the world, in my country in particular, and from the personal burdens I carry as all of us carry at some point in our lives. From Essex, England to Curaçao, to Salem, Massachusetts to New York back to Salem, we are taken on Maria’s life journey. I’ll leave the details of that for readers to discover on their own.

The novel left me wanting some “Courage Tea” and some of Maria’s black soap so I could “look ten years younger.” It left me hoping everyone could have a “familiar” and that every young woman will find a Samuel Dias in their life. It left me still loving the Owens family who I discovered in the other two novels in this series. Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer who has written over thirty works of fiction. I have read nine of them so I was left feeling glad that I have so many more to enjoy.

I read this with Diane and Esil for our monthly read along.

I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster through Edelweiss and NetGalley
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
247 reviews967 followers
April 27, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

4.5 stars

The Practical Magic series is my literary comfort food.

I find Alice Hoffman’s tales of the mystical Owens women to be soothing. Healing. They soften my worries and ease my aches. It’s as if my entire being – mind, body, and spirit – is rejuvenated by her stories of these strong and brave, witchy women.

In Magic Lessons, Hoffman takes us back to the root of it all. She tells the story of Maria Owens, the family matriarch who, centuries ago, cast the curse that haunts the Owens bloodline. It’s a story for which I have waited years, always believing it to be a need-to-know piece of the family’s history.

And I now consider the novel to be a need-to-read piece of the family’s history. Because it is superb.

I was captivated by it. Utterly mesmerized. Once again, I fell prey to Hoffman’s magical spell, and it wasn’t until I contentedly thought, The End, that I awoke from her enchantment.


Magic Lessons is not my series favorite. The story is very slow moving, and Hoffman’s writing is even more long-winded than usual, with noticeably repetitive prose that gives the novel a lengthier-than-necessary feel.

Still, I will take long-winded, repetitive Hoffman any day. I am not one to complain about too much of a good thing.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
July 21, 2020
5 Magical Stars.

“Always Love Someone Who Loves You Back”

Maria Owens is a woman whose legend has been well known to those of us who loved “Practical Magic” and “The Rules of Magic.” In Alice Hoffman’s new novel “Magic Lessons,” - we finally learn of her story.

The matriarch of the Owens family, Maria is familiar with the “Unnamed Arts.” Her life’s path will take her from England, all the way to Salem, Massachusetts in the time of the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600’s.

Maria is a friend, a teacher and a lover and she does her best to bestow knowledge and kindness unto others. Once however, full of anger and spite, she is unable to help herself and she unleashes a venomous curse.

It is then that she remembers the rules of magic. Rules that her mother Hannah instilled into her:

“Do as you will, but harm no one
What you will give will be returned to you threefold”

For it is true you see as there are no take backs.

Chills ran down my spine, as I had no idea what Ms. Hoffman had in store. Shocked me, she did! This will not terrify or scare you, that I can promise. You will however, be wholly unprepared.

“Magic Lessons” is so different in comparison to both “Practical Magic” and “The Rules of Magic,” so dark and ominous, perhaps due to the time period in which it takes place, and the feel of it, as well as the writing style. That being said, I truly enjoyed this novel and found it to be a brilliant prequel to both of the sequels. I can only hope that Alice Hoffman keeps writing more novels in this series as I love reading about the Owens family. For those of you who love reading about Magic and the Owen’s family, you will not be disappointed by this addition to the series!

A huge thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, Simon & Schuster and Alice Hoffman for the arc.

Published on Goodreads on 5.3.20.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,411 reviews35.2k followers
June 6, 2020
"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." - William Shakespeare

Alice Hoffman read from her Grimoire and brewed up something special when she wrote this book. If this doesn't make one want to drop everything and read Practical Magic or any of her other books again, I don't know what will. Full of beautiful and insightful passages, Magic Lessons is a delight from beginning to end.

This is a book about magic, about family, about love, about injustice and about history. Full of Hoffman's magical prose, vivid descriptions, the Owens family history and the Salem Witch Trials.

"Be grateful if you have walked through the world with another's heart in your hand."

Maria Owens was just a baby when she was found in a field by Hannah Owens. Recognizing that Maria has a gift, Hannah teaches Maria everything she knows but especially to always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria follows a man to Salem, Massachusetts, she learns some harsh truths and she invokes the curse which will haunt her family. But while in Massachusetts she will also learn that love is what truly matters.

I was spellbound by this book. Simply put - I loved it. Plus, one might even find some natural remedies in this book to cure many bodily ailments. Hoffman is a gifted storyteller and she has outdone herself with this book. I love all things witch related and this book did not disappoint. Fans of Hoffman and of Practical Magic will not be disappointed. I found this book to be captivating, endearing and riveting. I was glued to the pages.

This book comes out in October and is not to be missed and remember:
"Do as you will, but harm no one.
What you will give will be returned to you threefold."

Highly Recommend! This book was pure magic!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

**Quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change
September 12, 2021

This history of the Owens family got off to a slow start for me. I found the first third to be dark and dreary and I struggled a bit, but it is also reflective of the history of this time.

It’s 1664 and an infant is left at Hannah Owens doorstep with nothing but a blanket stitched with blue thread. Hannah takes the child, Maria, to raise as her own daughter. Hannah has a gift and knows many cures and potions which she has discovered through use of the natural world around her. She is a kindly woman and many women come to her for cures for what ail their body and heart. As Maria grows she listens to Hannah and learns.

We travel through Maria’s life as she eventually travels to Curacao. There she meets a man and falls in love but he eventually leaves her. We follow her as she returns to Boston trying to find this man, the father of her infant daughter, Faith.

There is lots of history covered here including the plague and the Salem witch trials. Maria suffers a loss like no other, but she finds a rock in Samuel. “Maria was more magic than mortal, but even a witch can be changed by sorrow. Nothing would ever be the same, but Hannah had taught her that there were times, rare as they were, when what was done could be undone.”

I liked the second half of the book much more. We follow young Faith who has many trials to overcome. We are introduced to the dark side of magic and what can happen when a curse goes wrong!

I enjoyed watching Faith grow from an angry teen to a woman who wanted to find her roots, which she does. She learns from her mother the first rule of magic “Do as you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned to you threefold.”

Maria is constantly changing and finally realizes that to love is the best gift of all. She opens herself up to loving Samuel and her life changes.

As always Ms. Hoffman’s writing is exceptional. This book doesn’t have the humor that I found in parts of “The Rules of Magic”, but it is, as stated, a history of the Owens family.

I never know what I will find behind the covers of an Alice Hoffman book, but it is always something original, thought provoking and beautifully written.

I can recommend this book to lovers of the Owens family and all it’s stories. I can also assure you that you will never look at a black beetle the same way again!!!!!!

I received an ARC of this novel from the author through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,135 reviews2,746 followers
September 10, 2020
I’m not a fan of stories of magic or witchcraft, but I’ve always enjoyed Alice Hoffman. This book is a prequel to the Practical Magic series, as it covers Maria Owens, the original witch in the Owens bloodline.
It took me longer to get invested with this story. Beginning when Maria is abandoned as a baby and raised by a witch, it moves to her years as an indentured servant in Dutch Curaçao and finally to Salem, Mass and New York City. The writing is beautiful and lush. Hoffman totally paints each sense of place. She also completely evokes the time - a period when women have no power, when the devil is thought to walk among the people.
While Hoffman’s story relies heavily on witchcraft, magic and spells, it’s really about love, trust, hurt, revenge and betrayal. It’s a dark tale, with the hurt Maria and Faith suffer causing them to make bad decisions. “Try to do what’s best for your children and still it could go all wrong. What you knew today, you didn’t know yesterday. What you wished for then, you might come to regret.” But the good news is that it ends on a positive note.
My thanks to netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance copy of this book.
August 9, 2021
The origin of the curse from Practical Magic!

Maria Owens is the matriarch of the Owens family in America. She was abandoned by her mother, raised for her first ten years by a kindly woman named Hannah Owens who practiced the “Unnamed Arts”. Maria learns more magic wherever she goes. The most important thing she was taught by Hannah was to “Always love someone that will love you back”.

I really liked this book, but you know how sometimes you can be reading a book and it is 500 pages and it seems to go by in a flash while another book you can read and read for hours and you will look and you aren’t even a quarter of the way through the book? That was this book. The world building and character development was terrific and there were long descriptions of just about everything.

I’m not saying that was bad, since I really enjoyed everything about this book, it just seemed to go slower than some books. Maria’s journey really begins when she is 10 and men come to her home and burn it down. Hannah tells her to run and she does. I enjoyed her journey and how she grows at each place she ends up. Maria learns new magic at every place she goes, new cures and spells which include the local flora and fauna.

Maria is a very likable character. She is unafraid and able to take care of herself. She has no problem going where she wants and talking to people whether it be to find passage on a ship or to find a job in a new city. I have to tell you though, I know it is history, but I get so frustrated at the stupidity of people and especially when it comes to things that happened in the past.

For example, how they would tie a witch to a chair and throw it into a body of water. If the woman floated, she was a witch, but if she sunk and drowned, she was innocent. I mean really, after they killed how many innocent people do they stop? And the puritans, that think women are the cause of all evil because of Eve and the apple. So if a man feels something for a woman who isn’t his wife, it is the woman’s fault for putting some sort of spell on him or seducing him or whatever.

Though this is a book about love even more than it is a book about magic. It shows all different kinds of love such as obsessive love, jealous love, true love, false love, mean and cruel love. The fact that Maria has magic and can help to determine the course of love for others doesn’t mean she can help herself. Since people with magic can rarely perform it on or for themselves, when they do they pay a price and whatever they put out there is returned to them threefold.

“To any man who ever loves an Owens, let this curse befall you, let your fate lead to disaster, let you be broken in body and soul, and may it be that you never recover.”

Luckily the book doesn’t end with the curse. There are twists and turns and surprises throughout the story. I found myself in tears a few times. I liked the book for the emotional pull, for the magic and the whimsy, the animals and more. I also adore books like this where I can learn a bit of history I hadn’t known before. I never knew that in New York (which was named New Amsterdam) there once was a wall that separated the city from the wilds beyond and protected against attacks. That is how Wall Street got its name. This was such a good book in so many ways. I am sure I will be reading it again at some point!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Profile Image for PorshaJo.
466 reviews674 followers
October 24, 2020
One of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year and I'm sorry I didn't like this more. I'm a big Alice Hoffman fan and have loved the books of hers that I have read. I read the others in the Practical Magic series and The Rules of Magic is my favorite. But this one, I just found a bit boring. Buddy read with Dana as we are both Hoffman fans.

Going back to the start of the Owen's women. Starting with Maria and how she was abandoned as a baby, taken in by a local woman. You follow Maria to Curacao where she falls for John Hathorne and gets pregnant. Her daughter, Faith, is delivered and she heads to Massachusetts to find Hathorne. Along the way, she meets and falls for Samuel Dias, after she saves his life while on a boat from the islands to states. But Hathorne is a different man. In town, they are focused on death to anyone who is a witch. After Maria is sentenced to death for being a witch, her daughter is taken by a local woman. Maria escapes with the help of Samuel and she searches for years for her daughter. She loves Samuel but she is worried about the curse of the Owens women and the men they love. All this comes to a neat ending.

So it had all the familiars you find in a Hoffman book - red hair, the color red, black birds, familiars, witches, etc. But it seemed to drag for me. Sometimes it would be boring and then it would pick up and I would get interested and then go back and forth for me. And the lists....OMG, I almost thought of this as 'The Book of Lists'. Dana liked this one more than me. I'm sure I'm the outlier on this as many just loved it. I will say, it brought me back to a book I read by Shirley Jackson on the witch trials, Hathorne, and Tituba, the maid in a family who told spoiled brats stories and was then branded a witch. It was nice to hear all of this again in this story. Overall, I'm glad I've read it and now off to watch Practical Magic!
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2020
Every Saga has a Beginning

Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep Rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can. These are some of the Owens rules of magic, a family that I fell in love with from the time I read the first installment of their family history in Practical Magic. A family of bloodline witches that has passed their magic from mother to daughter all the way to present day, the Owens women are a fictional example that witchcraft and the love of sisterhood can exist in modern times. Before we readers arrive at the 21st century existence of Kylie and Antonia Owens and even before we know the story of their mother Sally and aunt Gillian as well as their aunts Franny and Jet, the Owens family history had to begin somewhere in time. That somewhere is the story of their infamous ancestor Maria Owens, but even Maria needs to come from somewhere and someone who started the family bloodline. When I found out that the beginning to the Owens saga would be published in 2020, I was giddy with excitement. Finally I would find out the origins of the rules of Owens magic that I have grown to love. A group of us celebrated the publication of Magic Lessons by first rereading Practical Magic and Rules of Magic, books I savored even more with new readings. Those appetizers lead to Magic Lessons, a book that was every bit worth the hype.

Maria Owens was abandoned by her birth mother Rebecca and found by Hannah Owens in the moors of England in the 1660s. Hannah is a bloodline witch, evident by a birthmark on her wrist. These marks could be in the form of a star, moon, or other astral object that pick out the person as someone special, in this case a witch. Hannah noticed a birthmark on Maria as well, yet kept this information secret, at least at first, and decided to raise the girl as her own. Readers find out that Hannah lives in the woods and has a gift for using herbs to treat the ailments of everyday life. We also find out that witches survived the Black Plague, something relevant in today’s world, because they understood how to use these herbs to cure both diseases and other afflictions. Hannah could tell that Maria was special from the time she was a young girl, both from the birthmark and that a familiar chose her from the time she was a baby. Caden the crow would follow Maria across oceans and remain loyal to her even when she was accused of the highest forms of witchcraft once she arrived in Salem; however, that came later. Witchcraft in England was already under fire when Maria was coming of age, and Hannah was determined that she should have a different fate, in a country where all people could be open regardless of their religion, culture, or lot in life. Fate would take Maria across the Atlantic Ocean where she would begin her young adult life on the island of Curaçao.

A reader familiar with Hoffman’s work would know that Curaçao is that setting for her luscious book The Marriage of Opposites. The island tolerated all religions, yet, unfortunately did not condone witchcraft. The practice was considered backward because of the black magic that had come from the island’s inhabitants of African descent. Yet, this is the environment that Maria finds herself in, and she learns the properties of the native herbs and spices including the fabled magnolia tree, which she adds to her growing knowledge of magic, and is eventually passed down to all Owens women in her grimoire. It is in Curaçao that Maria encounters John Hathorne and becomes pregnant by him. This is not love, only a passing moment in time, yet it was enough for Maria to use Hathorne as an example to begin the famous Owens’ curse: that no Owens woman should ever fall in love because it is dangerous considering where the women come from. What Maria had with John Hathorne was not love; yet, at a tender age, she had not yet learned to distinguish true love from the act of intimacy, something generations of Owens women would have to live with for over 300 years. As an older teenager, however, Maria Owens believed that John Hathorne was the one, and her journey would next take her to the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony, where it was dangerous to be a witch.

Salem, 1692 needs no introduction, yet this is the environment where Maria Owens found herself upon arrival in Massachusetts, where she was determined to find John Hathorne and introduce him to his infant daughter Faith. On the voyage to America, Maria meets Samuel Dias and his father Abraham, merchants who survived the death of the rest of their family in post-inquisition Spain that decided to make a living sailing the world. The Dias’ family makes their home base in provincial Manhattan that is still run by the Dutch, so that they can attend the Sephardic Shearith Israel synagogue. Abraham has chosen in his older age to keep his feet on land, but Samuel still has the urge to travel the seas, and he is instantly smitten with both Maria and Faith, who calls him gaga for both goat and for father. Maria is conflicted because she believes what she had with John Hathorne was love, yet from the prose, it is apparent from the first sentences that her fate lie with Samuel Dias, a man with a colorful past. As one who had studied converso history for years, I found the sections with the Dias men to be fascinating. The fact that the Dias’ were persecuted for their religion and that the Owens’ women were persecuted for witchcraft should have be a sign that fate was bringing the two together. Like the story of Franny and Haylin three hundred years later, it would take Maria Owens nearly a lifetime for her fate to convene with a positive outcome.

As expected from reading the other installments of the Owens women, Maria Owens is prosecuted by none other than John Hathorne in the early days of the Salem Witch Trials. She lived in a cabin in the woods and saw women to give them potions for love and other afflictions and was actually lauded by many of these women who saw her as a powerful woman, knowledgeable in properties of herbs and medicine. There was the fragment of the population who were fearful of witchcraft even if a witch never did anything damaging; yet, these were the rumors that were passed down for generations down to the time when Franny and Jet called Maria’s house their home. All of this and other tribulations damaged Faith’s psyche, and her story that included the dark side of magic brought zest to this story. Franny and Jet have always had courage even when discussing Maria, but never mentioned Faith and her dabbling in black magic. It is clear that their line came from elsewhere, with Sally who was always labeled as a good girl, hence the name of the book practical magic, which clearly derived from her character. Maria would survive the trials or there would be no Owens family. Her journeys would take her back to New York and Samuel Dias and a community where witchcraft was tolerated. The scenes in Manhattan and rural Brooklyn were a joy to read, knowing that today they are among the busiest cities in the world. It is little wonder to me that generations of Owenses would want to call the city home despite the fact that Salem and its rich history is also full of witchcraft, both good and bad.

Eventually, Maria has another daughter named Hannah Reina and the Owens line continues sans black magic. With so many new Owens female characters, the possibility for new books linking the generations is endless. Knowing that Maria cursed her descendants and that the curse is finally broken three hundred years later might take a little fun out of reading about Owens’ women in different points in time. It is tantalizing to think where the family traveled between Maria’s time and that of Franny and Jet. What major events did they experience? How were witches treated in society at different points in time? Every saga has a beginning, and for the Owens family, that starting point is with Maria Owens. Her tale here in Magic Lessons was worth the hype and the wait and hopefully one day, a generation of Owens women emerges that will finally end her curse once and for all. After all, that is part of Maria’s rules of magic in her grimoire that has been passed down from one Owens woman to the next for centuries.

✨ 4.5 stars ✨in top ten for the year 🔮 🧙‍♀️ 🧹
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,045 reviews2,102 followers
November 4, 2020
EXCERPT: Hannah came around from the apothecary garden as Maria was studying the pin that had been cast into the tall grass. In the girl's hands, the silver turned black in an instant, as if brushed with dark paint, though the rubies shone more brightly because of her touch. Hannah clutched the leeks she had gathered more tightly to her chest, and felt an ache inside her bones. The wide-brimmed straw hat she wore to protect her from the sun fell from her head, and she didn't bother to go after it. What she had long suspected had now been shown to be true. She'd felt it from the start, that first day under the junipers when she spied the baby in her basket, a rare sight that had spread cold pinpricks along her spine. As she'd unwrapped Maria from her blanket, she'd spied an unusual birthmark in the shape of a star, hidden in the crease of the girl's inner elbow. Right away she wondered if this was the cause of the child's abandonment, for bloodline witches were said to be marked in such sly, concealed places, on the scalp, upon the small of the back, at the breastbone, along the inner arm. It was one thing to learn magic, but quite another to be born with it.

ABOUT: MAGIC LESSONS (PRACTICAL MAGIC 0.1) - 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.

MY THOUGHTS: Love potion #9? There's a recipe contained in Magic Lessons. But there is a tenth love potion, an enchantment only fit for those so desperate that they do not fear the consequences. There are always consequences.

It is said that love makes the world go round. But some swear by revenge. It must always be remembered though, that whatever you cast out into the world will come back to you threefold. Cast a spell in haste? Repent at leisure.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned . . . from remedies for fevers, salves for cuts, scrapes and infections, a cure for colic, and for dysentery, (no recipes, but it makes for interesting reading) to spells for all manner of things.

But this is mere embroidery for the cloth of the story, of how it all began, the heritage and the legacy of the Owen women.

Despite that we are told the story, rather than experiencing it, it did not take long for Hoffman's beautiful writing to enchant and bewitch me. The descriptions are vivid, as are the characters. It is an intense blend of history, love and family saga. The witch trials of Salem are touched on, as is the inhumane treatment of women in the 1600s, usually at the hands of men who felt threatened by them, or who simply saw it as a sport.

Prepare to have your heart shattered, and shattered again. Neither the characters nor the plot are predictable. Having just finished Magic Lessons, I am not sure that I am ready to be reimmersed in the 21st century. I may need to brew some calming tea. Oh, and I must remember not to cut my parsley with a knife; to add Hyssop and Horehound to my shopping list; and to buy my own paper copy of Magic Lessons.


#MagicLessons #NetGalley

These are the lessons to be learned:
Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit.
Feed a cold and starve a fever (I remember both my Nan and my Mum telling me that).
Read as many books as you can.
Always choose courage.
Never watch another woman burn.
Know that love is the only answer.

THE AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman is an American novelist and young-adult and children's writer, best known for her 1995 novel Practical Magic, which was adapted for a 1998 film of the same name. Many of her works fall into the genre of magic realism and contain elements of magic, irony, and non-standard romances and relationships. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a digital ARC of Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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Profile Image for *TUDOR^QUEEN* .
461 reviews479 followers
October 8, 2020
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4

I picked this to read because I've read good things from my Goodreads friends about the Alice Hoffman books "The Rules of Magic" and "Practical Magic". In fact, when these books appeared on kindle sales I purchased them for future reading based on their recommendations. When I realized that this was the prequel to those books, naturally it piqued my curiosity.

The story begins in late 1600s England in Essex County, transitions across the water to another Essex County in Massachusetts, then to Brooklyn and Maiden Lane in New York City. On a personal note, back in the 80s when I was a newly minted "yuppie", I used to walk down Maiden Lane to my first real job in the Wall Street area where I passed daily a wonderful muffin and coffee shop, but also drug dealers selling right out in the open to other yuppies.

This is an engaging story of Maria Owens who was left as a baby wrapped up securely in a blue blanket (blue thread provides protection) for a witch named Hannah Owens to find. Baby Maria also had the mark of a witch, but like her adoptive mother, she only wanted to use her gifts to help people. As she was taught, when you use dark magic the repercussions will boomerang back on you threefold. The biggest problems townfolk would seek out help with were love problems. Love problems are always the hardest, aren't they? Even for Maria!

I love reading about all the witch quirks such as when they touch anything silver it turns black, they usually attract a particular animal that becomes their loyal and ever present familiar, they cannot be drowned, and they can see flashes of their future by looking into a black mirror. I also loved reading about the fragrant black soap they made and sold which would make people look and feel decades younger, and about their methods of saving people on their deathbeds. In addition, there are special teas, plants, herbs and candles in the witches' toolbox.

Most of all, this story was about love, being an outcast (this was during the time of the Salem witch trials, after all) and the importance of using your natural gifts for good rather than evil. The writing was pleasant and free flowing, but my one complaint was that it felt as if I was reading this book for a longer time than necessary. I actually wondered if this book was 600 pages long, but it turned out to be a little over 400 pages. Perhaps it could have been edited down a little bit more.

Thank you to the publisher Simon and Schuster for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.
October 28, 2020
5 magic stars and 5 I loved it stars !!!

The rule of magic "Never deny who you are!!"

Magic Lessons unveils the centuries-old curse that has followed the Owens family in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic. I started to read Practical Magic but didn't get a chance to finish it before it disappeared from Overdrive. It is on it's way to my mailbox now. What I did read, I thought it was more whimsical and magical then Magic Lessons. I read The Rules of Magic in our Traveling Sister Goodreads group, and all of us loved it. It created an exciting discussion, and I am sure Magic Lessons would as well and be an excellent choice for a group discussion.

The Owen family's story starts with Maria Owens, and in Magic Lessons, we learn her story. It is a story of powerful and strong women at a time when women were powerless and were treated as less or evil, dangerous and needed to be grounded by men. The Owens women here are not grounded by the cruelty of men. At first, we see their vulnerabilities as they follow their hearts and through the lessons they learn and their drive to reach their goals and overcome their conflicts, we see them developed and grow into the women they become. Alice Hoffman creates some magic here with the lesson she provides us here in this unforgettable insightful story.

"Maria understood that a woman with her own beliefs who refuses to bow to those she believes to be wrong can be considered dangerous."

I loved the magic and witchcraft here that Alice Hoffman blended so well with the history of the story. I loved the lessons learned here about love, life and kindness. I loved the love that flowed as easily as the words did in the story. It was entertaining, exciting, insight and thought-provoking while portraying women well. I highly recommend for better reading.

"Know that love is the only answer." "Always love someone who will love you back."

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley!
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,794 reviews2,384 followers
October 6, 2020
5 Stars-in-My-Eyes

It is in the January of 1664 when Hannah Owens found an infant in a field, a foot of snow around her, the infant staring at a crows perched on her basket atop the junipers, the crow staring at this infant girl with pitch black hair and pale silvery-gray eyes, wrapped in a blanket with her name stitched along the border. And so Hannah brought the infant girl named Maria home to raise as her own, with the bird following, and Hannah singing.

The crow stayed on, and was named Caden. Caden, of course, knew he was supposed to be there, as he had recognized his destiny to be Maria’s familiar.

It’s there in the middle of these woods and fields where Maria learns about the nature around her, the difference between the things that grew there that could heal, and the things that could cause harm, with Hannah as her tutor as well as her mother.

In 1665, when Maria was two years old, deaths from the plague in London took the lives of sixty-eight thousand, followed by the fire in London the following year, which took seventy thousand homes. Hannah’s gifts were sought after by more and more women, women who came to her searching for answers, seeking her out the cures that came from her garden, cures for the ache of those looking for love. And while Hannah crafts her cures, Maria looks on and gains knowledge of the art of magic.

This story mainly follows the life of Maria, a story that begins as an infant and follows her life as she learns cures and remedies and charms from Hannah. And when Maria is ten, on Midsummer’s night, Hannah’s present to her is own Grimoire, a book made with love, and filled with power and knowledge. The lessons begin in earnest; there is much for Maria to learn.

Maria will eventually travel to Curaçao, where she lives for a while, until she travels to Boston some years later in search of a man she met in Curaçao, and the story goes on from there. Of course, included are the Salem Witch trials. Of course, there’s more, much more, to this story which I believe is her best of the Practical Magic series, perhaps because the writing seems a bit more elevated in tone than I remember from Practical Magic. A bit more like the writing I found in The Dovekeepers, although with more of the lightheartedness that is occasionally found in both of the sequels to this second prequel to the book that started it all.

If you’ve read either Practical Magic or Rules of Magic then you already know about the Owens family, and the ‘curse’ that has haunted the women in this family for centuries. If you haven’t read either of those books, Magic Lessons is where the story of the curse of the Owens women begins, so it isn’t necessary to have read them – but you’ll want to once you’ve finished reading this!

Published: 06 Oct 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster
Profile Image for Danielle.
829 reviews454 followers
May 20, 2021
I’m going to be honest in saying, I went into this with extremely high expectations. “The Rules of Magic” made my “COUNTDOWN: The Best Books I’ve Read In 2017” list and “Practical Magic” is well… 🤩 So, I had hope that this one would give me all the same feelings and it just kinda fell flat for me. 🥺 I felt like this was very predictable and just kinda dragged on a bit longer than necessary…. While I still love the magic and witches and the family, I guess I’m over exploring their stories any further 🤷🏼‍♀️❤️📚
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.4k followers
November 10, 2020
Magic Lessons is a well-told, moving story of love, family, and witchcraft.

Alice Hoffman returns with the prequel to The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic , and the story of the Owens family. In this book, which starts in the mid-1600s, a baby girl, Maria, is found abandoned in a snowy field in rural England. She is taken in by Hannah Owens, a kind woman who once had been jailed for being a witch.

Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift, and teaches her “the Nameless Art.” But as Maria grows under Hannah’s tutelage and watches her work with the women who come to her secretly for help, Maria learns that most of their problems have something to do with love, and she vows never to fall in love herself.

But even witches are powerless in the face of love, and it’s not long before she follows the man who betrayed her to Salem, Massachusetts. And while she tries to keep a low profile and help women like her adoptive mother did, ultimately she runs afoul of the fear and jealousy that ruled Salem in those horrible days.

"But even a witch can possess a woman's flaws, and a woman's desires. Maria thought she knew what was to com, but she was wrong. Anyone can fall in love, despite vows to the contrary. Any woman can make a mistake, especially when she is young, and sees the wrong man through a haze so that he appears to be something he's not."

This is a story of two generations of women, both who bore the scars of love gone wrong, yet in different manifestations. It’s a story about fighting your fears and letting yourself believe in the power of love even when you’ve seen it be destructive. But it’s also a powerful story about the fierce love of a mother.

I really love the way Hoffman writes and I have loved the earlier books in this series. While I enjoyed the emotions and the pain and the beauty of this story, because the book took place at such an historic time, there was a lot more background detail shared here, which I felt bogged things down a bit. But I’m not a fan of historical fiction so others might not be bothered by this.

You certainly could read this one first if you’ve not read the other books, but do yourself a favor—read those, too. Like so many of Hoffman's books, they’re just gorgeous and they’ll grab your heart.

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Profile Image for Karen.
592 reviews1,193 followers
July 12, 2020
This is the story of Maria who was left as an infant in a snowy field in rural England in the 1600’s.
She was found by Hannah Owens who raises her with love and realizes early on that she has the gift, as does Hannah herself.. she’s a witch. Hannah teaches her all she knows of healing, herbal remedies, etc.
Maria will travel to Curaçao as a young woman after being sold into servitude by her birth father.. there she falls in love with a man who is visiting there from Salem, Massachusetts. This man betrays her and she ends up traveling to Salem to find him with her their young daughter in tow, during the Salem witch trials.
There are characters to love and hate, adventures, danger, the arts of witchcraft, and love.
This is all the background I’m going to give on the story.
I think most will very much like, if not love this story.
You do not need to have read any previous written books in the series, it just lets you know how it all started.

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for this ARC!
September 22, 2020
This was a fine continuation to the story of the Owens family and how they came about from dating back to the 1600s. It gave us a background on the ladies who started the dynasty of special witches whose special powers passed down from daughter to daughter. Although a bit slow at the onset, this story eventually propels the reader into the world in which the ladies we read about in the previous two books in the series, inherited their legacy.

Maria Owens was the start of the family dynasty, and we follow her through Curacao, where she went after the death of her caregiver Hannah Owens, the Salem witch trials and her meeting and having a daughter with John Hawthorne, to the time where Maria's heart is broken for he left her and moved on to Salem where in time, he becomes the leader of a group that persecutes and puts to death those suspected of witchcraft.

When Maria arrives in Salem with her magically gifted daughter, Faith, the curse to never allow love to enter the lives of the Owens women, gets its start.

However on the voyage to Salem, Maria meets and is drawn to Samuel, son of the ship's cabin. Samuel is enamored with Maria, but his affection though returned by Maria, is turned away, as she is on a mission to find the father of her child. She must not fall in love for she knows that her loved one will be cursed.

Both Maria and Faith will find that they are challenged both physically and emotionally and that vow to never love a man will be tested to its fullest.

Told with the wonderful background of the times. Ms Hoffman once again creates a story of magic, of darkness, and one where the realization of love being the final answer.

Thank you to Alice Hoffman, Scribner Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this story due out on October 6, 2020.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
2,077 reviews1,658 followers
September 26, 2020
4-5 rounded up.

This story is set in the latter part of the seventeenth century and is the tale of magical lessons for Maria Owens and her daughter Faith which takes us from Essex in England to Curaçao thence to Massachusetts, in particular Salem, to New York and back to Salem.

The pace of this novel is initially slow but it does build up and you become totally immersed in the storytelling. This is a dark, intense story of betrayal and false love, of true love abandoned but re-found and the blackest of revenge. It’s a chilling tale although not horrifying and there are some shocks along the way although I like that it ends very positively. It is cleverly set in the context of the times both in terms of attitudes to women and to female healers which is of course, well documented especially in Salem.. Alice Hoffman’s huge literary strength lies in her magical prose as she seems to cast a spell on you as a reader and bewitches you with her creativity. It’s beautifully written, the storytelling feels alive and the colourful characters jump from the pages, some to like and some to loathe. I really like the natural remedies that ‘pepper’ the book too!

Overall, this is another unique and original novel from a very talented author whose skills I really admire. Highly recommended to fans of this genre.

With thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the much appreciated ARC for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,127 followers
November 2, 2020
3.5 Stars

Really enjoyed this novel even though I am not a fan of Magic realism books but I am a fan of historical fiction. I love Alice Hoffman’s writing and her beautifully drawn characters and could not resist downloading this one after reading friends reviews. I believe this is a prequel to Practical Magic so I have at least the advantage of starting this series at the beginning

Set in the 17th Century we follow the story of Maria Owens who has been abandoned as a baby and brought up by a witch called Hannah. Magic Lessons follows Maria’s life and that of her daughter Faith and by the end of this one I felt I was well equipped to Maggie up a few magic potions myself.

For someone who doesn’t love magic realism I do enjoy novels which feature the Salem Witch Trials and Magic Lessons does take us to this place and time.
I love Alice Hoffman’s ability to tell a story as she sucks you in from the very first page. Vivid and entertaining characters and a wonderful sense of time and place as she weaves a beautiful story of history and magic.

I listened to this one on audible and the narrator Sutton Foster was excellent. This is my third novel by this author and I am hoping to read The Dovekeepers next as a few of my Goodread’s friends have highly recommended it.

A perfect by the fireside read for this time of year a great escapism novel.
Profile Image for Jen.
84 reviews267 followers
December 31, 2020
Loved it, what a fantastic book to end the year with! 💫

Written as a prequel to Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman tells the story of Hannah, Maria and Faith Owens and their family’s journey from England to Curacao to America in the 1600’s. Each having the gift, they move through the years struggling to stay safe from persecution while helping those in need.

Along with an engaging lyrical prose, Hoffman adds in wonderful historical facts that made me pause and do some google searches to check whether they were fictional creative licence or historically accurate and I was thrilled to learn they were facts. So many interesting notes on Jewish pirates as well as early land settlement in America, I love when an author adds things to an already engaging story that make me want to discuss what I’m reading.

The stories show the awakening and knowledge that each character gains throughout their life and their character development was so well written and natural.

“Read as many books as you can. Always choose courage. Never watch another woman burn.”

What more can I say, loved it and will miss the characters now that their story has been told. I +++ recommend you see what lessons this magical book will show you✨
Profile Image for Deborah Harkness.
Author 30 books29k followers
October 27, 2020
This is a prequel to Hoffman’s classic witchy tale, Practical Magic, but even if you haven’t read that book or seen the movie, this stands alone beautifully. Set in the 17th century, it delves into the tale of Maria Owens and her daughter, Faith, as they embark on a journey from England to Curaçao to Salem and New York. Hoffman is a great storyteller with a real gift for capturing both homely details and the complicated workings of the human heart. Within its pages you will find a love story (and a revenge story), all the magic you could want, and glorious period detail. Hoffman takes witches seriously, as well as the relationships between mothers and daughters. “This was true magic,” Hoffman writes, “the making and unmaking of the world with paper and ink.” Given that, you will wonder if Hoffman is herself a wizard after finishing this satisfying, alluring tale.
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.7k followers
October 1, 2020
Why I love it
by Sara Sligar

I’m a sucker for magic. I’ll happily spend hours discussing the movements of the zodiac, and I never met a tarot deck I didn’t want to own. I also love brilliant genre fiction and complicated female characters—so basically, Alice Hoffman’s new novel, Magic Lessons, had me at hello.

If Magic Lessons were a potion, its recipe might look something like this: Start with equal parts family saga, feminist creed, and love story. Combine them in the cauldron of 17th-century America (maybe, say, the Salem witch trials?). Add a whole lot of magic and folklore. Sprinkle with revenge. And voilà: the story of Maria Owens, a young witch whose quest for justice takes her into the dangerous world of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where she lays down a curse that will stalk her family for generations.

I adored this book. The prose is so lyrical it feels like an incantation, and Hoffman makes a distant historical moment seem as real and immediate as the present day. It’s a prequel to Hoffman’s bestselling Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, and it showcases the same seamless blend of magic and reality. But you definitely don’t have to have read those books to be riveted by Maria’s story. Magic Lessons is a universal tale about love and survival. Any reader craving a dose of the impossible will be spellbound by this tender, powerful book.

Read more at:
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,320 reviews2,140 followers
May 17, 2021
A clever idea on Hoffman's part to write this prequel to her popular witchy books about the Owens. In Magic Lessons we learn about Maria Owens, found as a baby in the snow in 17th century England and the ancestor of the people we read about in The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic

As usual Hoffman writes beautifully and this book is worth reading just for the prose. In fact the story is good too, moving from England to Curacao to Salem and New York. Of course as soon as you hear the words witch and Salem in the same sentence you know there will be at least one witch dunked in the river or hanged.

My only criticism of the other books was that I prefer my witches to be a bit more dangerous than Hoffman's are - I want less of the healing remedies and more spell casting. In this book Faith comes very close to my idea of a real witch when she ignores the rules of magic and seeks revenge for her past.

Altogether this was a beautifully written, interesting and absorbing story. I enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Leslie Ray.
187 reviews95 followers
June 19, 2020
This is the prequel to Practical Magic and quite a mystical book in its own right. It flowed exquisitely and was like reading a fairy tale. There is, intertwined in the story, natural remedies for ailments and sicknesses, all part of each witches' Grimoire (personal witches'/healer's guide).
The story begins with Hannah, who finds a baby named Maria, followed by the arrival of Maria's familiar, a crow to be called Cadin, who follows Maria throughout. There are beautiful passages from beginning to end which cannot help but entrance the reader. The independence of Maria is honed with Hannah, her time as an indentured servant in the West Indies, where she further accumulated her healing remedies and then ultimately her move to Massachusetts with the subsequent Salem Witch Trials and an eventual legacy that she bestows, for girls.
If you have not read Practical Magic, this will certainly provide an impetus to do so. If you have, you will probably want to read it again, as this magical prelude provides the cornerstone.
Thank you to Goodreads as I won this in a Goodreads giveaway and the thoughts and opinions of this book are my own.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,544 reviews601 followers
October 19, 2020
[3.5] Alice Hoffman could write historical fiction about magic on auto-pilot - and for a while that's what this novel felt like. The first hundred or so pages set the scene - lots of lists and detail - and felt sluggish. Fortunately, the momentum picked up, Hoffman cast her spell, and I became very engrossed in the story of Maria Owen.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
1,006 reviews50 followers
August 16, 2020
Like the other two books in this backwards-facing series (they are prequels of each other, rather than the standard sequels), I struggled with Magic Lessons from nearly the beginning. To be fair, it is the same style and the same storytelling method as Hoffman employed in both Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic; I just simply don't care for it.

There is almost no depth to the story, the characters, or the atmosphere. The narrator (third person) is incredibly removed from the story and distant. What there is a lot of ... is page after page, paragraph after paragraph, of lists of things. Lists of magicky sounding phrases and reminders, formulas and ingredient lists. Lists of feelings at that moment, followed by lists of metaphors and/or similes to further describe said feelings. Lists of things noticed in the scene and then remembered from another, which may or may not spark other lists of other remembrances. Utterly exhausting.

There's an extraordinarily small amount of dialogue throughout the entire book and Hoffman handles the rest of her story by simply and directly telling — it is blunt, it is to the point, and it is boring. There is no subtly in any of the story, and I cannot imagine the draw to the entire book being delivered this way (nay, the entire series).

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,220 reviews2,726 followers
October 11, 2020
When Hannah Owens found the crow beside the abandoned babe back in the 1600s and saw the name “Maria” delicately sewn on her blanket with blue thread, she took her back to her cabin to raise her. When Hannah died, Maria inherited her Grimoire, the book of magic filled with instructions and spells, and headed for Curacao. Maria’s meeting of John Hathorne – after vowing never to fall in love – saw that vow fail her, and when John abandoned her and Maria discovered she was pregnant, she lived quietly with two special women until her time was due. The beautiful red headed baby girl was called Faith, and Maria could see her magic was strong.

Sailing for America where Maria knew John had returned, she met the captain and his son. Samuel Dias was very ill, and the captain dearly loved his son. When Maria said she could save him, a bond was formed between the three of them. Living in Manhattan with Samuel now captaining his own vessel and his father quietly spending his final years with Maria and Faith, disaster was not far away. For there were many forms of love and some were the worst kind which even a witch couldn’t avoid…

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman is a deep, profound and delightful, magical story written with art and grace. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Maria and her familiar, Cadin the black crow, along with Faith and her familiar, the wolf, Keeper. The story of the Owens family’s beginning is a fascinating one and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, and of course Ms Hoffman.

With thanks to Simon & Schuster AU for my uncorrected proof ARC (with its beautiful cover) to read in exchange for an honest review.
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