I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow.
I LOVED Alix Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousands Doors of January. Click here to read my review.
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
I’ve loved every moment spent in the exciting world of the Eastwood sisters on their quest to bring back magic into the world. The introduction left me in no doubt this would be a world that would hook me in … fuss and mess indeed 🙂 Sometimes I was afraid to read what was coming next, not that I thought the characters wouldn’t be able to handle it, but because I wouldn’t!
The three sisters (who are living apart) are drawn one-by-one to a specific place at an important moment in the turning of the wheel in 1893. They get a glimpse as the veil lifts which sets them off on their quest to find the ending of a spell. But more than that, their quest takes them on the dark and winding paths that highlight the lack of women’s freedom and rights. Oh the woman are strong in this story. During the worst situations there is strength and determination, even when all seems futile.
There’s such a sense of time and place both anchored in the present and the past and for me, the history and culture of the town were as interesting as the re-birth of magic. The suffrage movement is important (although not for the reasons that drew Juniper in the first place but ultimately a key for unity). I loved how it all came back to one place and one person.
There are some great scenes that raised my heartbeat. One of my favourite scenes was the night market of New Cairo. I could just picture this in a movie.
My favourite sentence: “The words come out ragged and bloody, as if they ran through dense briars on their way to her lips.”
The three sisters are reflections of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone and Alix Harrow does this with such style. In fact, you’ll find the archetypes you would expect in a fantasy novel and they all have depth. I loved the re-telling of fairy tales and the folklore.
The Once and Future Witches is a world that is believable. Darkness and light, sacrifice and birth, secrets and misunderstandings as well as the truth. If you enjoy this genre then I know you will adore this story too.
This truly would make an amazing movie!
Alix E. Harrow is an ex-historian with lots of opinions and excessive library fines, currently living in Kentucky with her husband and their semi-feral children. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. The Ten Thousand Doors of January was her debut novel. Find her on Twitter at @AlixEHarrow.