For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…
If you’re scrolling through reviews debating on if you should read this one or start with Magic Lessons. I’m going to tell you, start there, not here. It will make this more interesting, and less mundane? I don’t know what word I am looking for.
Next, if you’re here for “should I read this, since I watched the movie”. For me, having seen the movie before reading this, these two pieces might share the same name, but the stories are completely different. Comparing them would be like comparing apples and oranges. Character names may be the same, but each tells a vastly different tale with some similar plot points. I don’t want to give spoils but here are light examples, this book starts when Sally & Gillian move into the Aunts house, and tells their entire life story before diving into the events of the movie. While some key points are similar, the story plays out differently so it’s worth the read to then ponder over which of the girls choices did you prefer. Aside from that everyone is aged up, Sally’s girls are in their teens, and the Aunts are in their nineties. So these factors alone, make for a very different story. TL;DR – Just because you watched the movie doesn’t mean you will be able to predict the book.
Having read the two prequels, it is very obvious that when this book was written, the full Owens family history hadn’t been flushed out yet. There are minor details that are changed / different compared to the lore that those two books build for us.
One of my favorite parts about this book is to see just how much Alice Hoffman improved her writing craft from the 90s to today. I’m in awe at the growth she had as a writer and a world builder. I would love to see her remaster this story to fit the current lore, and her current writing capabilities. I’m a huge nerd for watching writers learn the craft through reading their books, and this is one of the biggest glow ups I’ve had the pleasure of reading through.
So with that in mind, this book does not read like the prequels at all. It is much more narrative, and less whimsical history book. Which knowing this was written two decades ago, that doesn’t disappoint me at all. It’s a product of it’s time, and where the writer was when she wrote it.
I am seriously curious how the newest in the series will be handled, since so much that was in The Rules of Magic wasn’t mentioned in here at all. (obviously/spoilers-but was mentioned in the movie so it makes it weird.) But I am still in love with this world, and excited to see where the Owens will lead us next.