Um, have you ever read a book and throughout felt like the luckiest person ever? That was me with The Once and Future Witches. I loved every page and I think getting to read this super early might be one of the highlights of my blogging days so far. It is the queer, witchy, feminist historical book of my dreams. I will buy and read everything Alix E. Harrow writes & I am incredibly grateful to Orbit and Netgalley for sending me an eARC of this wonderful book.
RELEASE DATE: 13/10/20
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶ (or, like ALL THE STARS)
SUMMARY: 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 Eastwood sisters – James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna – 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 will need to 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. (from Orbit Books)
OPINIONS: This is a grandiose book. Wonderfully written, full of issues that matter without ever being preachy, great, complex characters and a story that packs a punch. Alix E. Harrow managed to snag a Hugo nomination for her debut The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which came out last year, and already won one for her short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” (which you can read here) last year. So it comes as no surprise that her sophomore novel manages to immerse the reader in the world of the Eastwood sisters and their quest to return witching to the modern era.
All three of the sisters are unique and captivating characters that the reader will fall for. They all have their strengths and, importantly, their weaknesses and flaws, none of them anywhere near infallible. But more than anything, they are interesting. To me, that is more important than any other quality. I wanted to know more about what makes these women tick and spur them into action. James Juniper, riotous rebellion leader. Agnes Amarath, fierce mother and protector. Beatrice Belladonna, sapphic librarian and guardian of knowledge. Each of them made me fall for her in turn. The secondary cast is no less enchanting. And the villain of the story, Gideon Hill, is so damn creepy because he is so believable. He is the kind of man every woman, even now, has encountered in her life, who has made life difficult for those who don’t just accept him as their superior leader. But then you find out that there might be more to him than meets the eye…
The story of The Once and Future Witches focuses on the return of magic to the world in a period historically associated with the quest for suffrage. It shows women banding together in secret to overcome obstacles and create a world more open and tolerant. It is ultimately a story of hope in the face of adversity, something which is crucial at this particular moment in time. And it is so well written. It is full of stories within a story, crafting together a world of magic evolving over the centuries, culminating in a coherent and complex system that makes sense. There are rules, there are traditions, and there is a history to it all. It is wonderful.
As you can see, The Once and Future Witches is an absolute treat, and is one of my new favourite books of all time. I will probably be getting myself all kinds of special editions as soon as they are announced, but until then, you can add it on Goodreads here, and pre-order it from Waterstones here and Book Depository here.