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Review: The Once And Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Page Count: 520
Published by: Redhook
Date Published: October 13, 2020
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


It’s 1893 and witches are no longer a thing. Once powerful, revered, and free, witching has been reduced to simple spells to clean the dishes and keeping the white linens spotless. The right to vote is the only way for a woman to seek her power and right to autonomy.

When the estranged Eastwood sisters – James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth and Beatrice Belladonna, converge again in New Salem and join the suffragist movement, they quickly realize this will not be a fast, nor fair, fight and that gentle demonstrations are getting them nowhere.

Turning to the lost words and ways of witching they hope to restore women’s internal power and free them from the corrupt hands of men. But dark shadows lurk at every corner and severe, deadly punishment awaits all who are caught. Can the sisters restore the lost ways before it’s too late? Or will they simply ignite another deadly period of purging and burning of women? They must rely on each other and their new fragile bond to survive.


This was an ambitious read. Alix E. Harrow harvests a lot of varying voices, sociopolitical juxtaposition, and historical precedence, with elements of fantasy, estranged family, found sisterhood, and, of course, magic all wrapped up in her signature web of poetic writing and detail. It can be a lot and it did take me some time to warm up/wrap my head around all the chatter. For part one I did find the plight of reawakening the ways of witching to war with the plot elements of the suffragist movement. But once the suffragist chapter is replaced with the Sisters of Avalon, the story really solidified.

This is my kind of witchy read, of which I am admittedly ridiculously picky. I love elements of spelling and casting, I love herbs, plants, and the respect of nature, crinkling old pages found within leather tomes, libraries of words, animal familiars, women supporting women in unified and true sisterhood, all cocooned in a world of danger, peril, and the fight for women’s power. Alix E. Harrow brings all this in her newest novel, never shying away from the dark detail of the very real abuse, torture, and cruelty of the historic time of witch hunting.

A hefty read with ambitious goals – combining numerous elements and plot lines: the rights and powers of women, estranged family, witching, spells, observational commentary on our current political environment, fantasy, magic, the suffragist movement, and the unbendable power of women raising women. The Once and Future Witches could easily have been an overworked, complicated disaster. But Alix E. Harrow, with her thorough, elegant writing and slowly built plotting, brings the elements together with a steady hand. That said this may not be everyone’s favourite fantasy style but I feel her writing has great crossover appeal between YA and adult readers. The Once and Future Witches is a lush magical tale woven with wonderful elements of female empowerment, delicious witchcraft, and classical storytelling.

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