Review: The Rules of Magic

By: Alice Hoffman

Available on: Amazon, Audible, and Barnes and Noble.

Read as part of the 2020 Golden Trio Reading Challenge prompt: Rowena Ravenclaw.


Blurb: This story follows the three Owens siblings: Francis, Jet, and Vincent as they grow up with the magic of their family bloodline both bringing wondrous things and absolutely wreaking havoc on their lives.

Trigger Warnings:

Alcohol, Blood, Bullying, Death, Drug Use (Illicit), Food, Infidelity, Off Screen Sex, Poor Coping Mechanisms, Purple Prose, Racism, Underage Drinking, Underage Sex, Unsafe Lifestyle, Unsafe Sex

Body Count: several, I honestly lost count.

Overall review:

  • Thoughts:
    • What I liked: Rules of Magic was a lovely book. Engaging and dancing smoothly from childhood to adolescence and eventually into adulthood of the characters, it didn’t feel like it was dragging even though it engaged across multiple decades. Jet, Vincent, and Franny all had their flaws and vices. And, realistically, their decisions had consequences beyond just simple things. It was a complex book with bright characters and beautiful descriptions of common, everyday magics that we sometimes forget to look for. The Owens family history was broadly discussed and pulled more to the forefront than in Practical Magic. Hope and faith, however that may take shape, are also undercurrents in this novel. I would absolutely read this book again, and plan to read more of Alice Hoffman’s novels as well.
    • What I didn’t like: It was sadder than I thought it would be. The entire book has an undercurrent of sadness and loss beyond that which one usually encounters in such an otherwise happy, intricate book.
  • Was it engaging?
    • Yes
  • Favorite Character:
    • Franny and her crow.

Rating out of five: 5 out of 5

To Read or Not To Read (Again):

On the Bookshelf, to be read again.

The Technical Specs:

  • Series
    • Series Name: Practical Magic Series
    • Book Number: Book 1 of ??
  • Genre
    • Technical Genre: Occult Fiction, Historical Fantasy Fiction
    • Theo Genre: Feminist Fiction, Magical Realism, Occult Fiction
  • Page count: 385 pages
  • POV: Limited 3rd
  • Publication information:
    • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-13: 9781501137488
    • ASIN: B071Y37P87

Representation, Morality, and Sexism in Media Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test: Pass
    • Do two female characters talk about something other than a male character? Yes
  • Deggan’s Rule Test: Fail
    • Are there at least two non-white human characters in the main cast in a story not primarily focused on race? No
  • DuVernay Test: Fail
    • Are there fully actualized characters of color? No
  • Ellen Willis Test: Pass
    • Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed? Yes
  • Hays Code: Pass
    • Part One: outdated moral guidelines
      • Are there any outdated “moral content” rules gloriously kicked in the teeth by this story? Murder, happy queer characters, profanity, etc.
    • Part Two: queer representation
      • Are there queer characters that get a happy ending? Yes
      • Do the queer characters die? No! 🙂
    • Part Three: age and agency:
      • Is there an illegal or otherwise distasteful age gap between characters, queer or otherwise? No
  • Mako Mori Test: Pass
    • Is there a female character that gets her own arc? Yes
  • Mary Sue/Gary Stu Test: Pass
    • Is the main character completely flawless and persecuted by other characters needlessly? Nope
    • Take a Mary Sue test here!
  • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
    • Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp? Yes
    • Post-It Note Caveat:
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance? Not at all.
  • Tauriel Test: Pass
    • Is there at least one woman in the story who is competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character? Yes
    • If she has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, does she suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest? No.
  • Topside Test: Fail
    • Are there two or more trans characters in the story that know each other and do they talk about anything other than medical transition procedures? No.
    • I acknowledge that most common media lacks decent trans representation.
  • Vito Russo Test: Pass
    • Is there a character on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum spectrum who is a character beyond their orientation and do they actually affect the plot and are something beyond a punchline? Yes
      • What does that stand for? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Bi-romantic/Bi-gender, Transgender, Queer/Gender-queer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, and Pansexual/Panromantic.

You can read more about the various Media Tests I employ in my reviews at or by clicking the header on the individual test. Why include all these? Because I can, because representation matters, and because I’m neurotic.

Review format updated 29 February 2020

One thought on “Review: The Rules of Magic

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