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Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Historical fiction

Magic Lessons

3peat author

Alice Hoffman is officially a 3-time author at BOTM, which is a pretty big deal!

by Alice Hoffman

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Quick take

Travel back to 1600s Salem in this standalone prequel to The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Series

    First in series

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical



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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Magic Lessons.
Magic Lessons

Part One: Transformations



She was found on a January day in a field where the junipers grew, wound in a blue blanket with her name carefully stitched along the border with silk thread. There was a foot of snow on the ground, but the sun was strong and whoever had named the child Maria had most assuredly loved her, for the wool of the blanket was of a very fine grade, certain to keep her warm, and she’d been well cared for, not lacking for comfort or food. She was a quiet baby, but as the day passed she began to fuss and then to cry, doing so unfailingly and with great effort, until at last a crow came to perch on her basket, peering at her with its quick black eyes.

That was how the old woman discovered the abandoned child, staring at a bird nearly as large as herself, fearless and wide-eyed from the start. Maria was a beautiful baby, with pitch-black hair and pale gray eyes, a silvery shade so unusual the old woman wondered if she wasn’t a changeling, for this was a place where strange things happened and fate could be a friend or a foe. Changeling or not, Hannah Owens carried the baby back into the woods, singing as they went, the first human words the baby would remember.

The water is wide, I cannot get oe’r it
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that will carry two
And I shall row, my Love and I.

O down in the meadows the other day
Agathering flowers, both fine and gay
Agathering flowers, both red and blue
I little thought of what love could do.

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (18,945)

  • Hillary S.

    Minneapolis, MN

    This was a book I wished would last forever. Its possibly the best BOTM i’ve ever gotten. And i knew nothing about practical magic, so i almost didnt pick it but im so glad that i did!! ????????????????‍♀️✨????

  • Jennon H.

    La Grange Park, IL

    I hadn’t read or watched any of the previous stories about the Owens sisters so I was coming in cold—I only wanted to read something witchy for October. What a great read—can’t wait to read the rest

  • Rachel S.

    Vancouver, WA

    I LOVE THIS BOOK. For any woman who’s ever felt like she didn’t quite fit, If you’ve ever wondered, How can I be true to myself when the world tells me I’m wrong? you will find yourself in this book.

  • Tracy I.

    Los angeles, CA

    I’m not usually into fantasy, but this leaned closer to historical fiction - i’m enchanted by Hoffman’s prose and her ability to dance through a story so fluidly. Will definitely read her collection!!

  • Arlene B.

    Richmond, VA

    Magical (obviously). I was utterly captivated by this enchanting tale of love. It’s a love story, but not in the typical sense. It’s a love story in the generations’-long, deep as a well sense. Loved!

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