Name: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Number of Pages: 525 (Kindle/ebook)
Published: October 13th 2020 by Redhook
Genre: Fantasy, Historical
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 words and 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.
Once upon a time there were three sisters…
So begins my first 5 star read of this year, and another great story from Alix E. Harrow. The Once and Future Witches follows the Eastwood sisters – Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth and James Juniper – as they strive to bring about a new age of magic in which women can claim back the words, the will and the ways to use magic once more.
I loved this.
I was looking forward to this book having enjoyed The Ten Thousand Doors of January so much, and it did not disappoint at all. It may not have quite such a whimsical air of Ten Thousand Doors, it has more of an historical air, but the story meanders wonderfully into magic, witchcraft and fantasy and blends all this together in a real page-turning way.
In this story women fight for their rights and also their older magical ways that have been lost over time and denied to them through fire and violence. I enjoyed the historical air, the setting and the characters. It provided a lovely reading mix.
The atmosphere and setting of New Salem is vivid and bustling with all manner of life, from the factory workers, to the women of various associations, to the men of office who hold themselves in high esteem. Women from all walks of life are drawn together in search of respect, power and freedom in a story of family and found family.
There are also some good men in this tale, and some who are evil in more ways than one.
There are so many little touches that brought this place to vivid life and it was a joy discovering them all.
The characters. I liked the Eastwood sisters very much, each of them dealing with a shared traumatic past and conflicts that led to them going their separate ways for a number of years, each resentful of perceived issues with the other.
Juniper is the youngest sister, fuelled by a deep anger and hurt. She has a tendency to go looking for trouble, and not backing away from the fight when trouble manages to find her. She’s young, brave, running from a violent past and isn’t afraid to do what might be required to achieve her ends.
Middle sister Agnes is more cautious, as she has more than just her own life to consider, which makes her torn between wanting the freedom her sisters believe is possible and wondering if the risk is acceptable to get it.
The eldest, Beatrice Belladonna is a librarian, devoted to her books and stories, and takes great pleasure in seeking out anything that may help the sisters reveal the secrets to return real magic to the world. She’s assisted in her quest by Cleopatra Quinn, a mysterious woman and journalist who appears in Beatrice’s life just as it appears that the return of magic may be possible. I enjoyed watching their relationship develop, slowly and gradually.
I enjoy the way Harrow writes. She has a way with words that appeals to me, descriptive and lyrical, conjuring some wonderful images. I really wanted to take my time and savour each word, finding myself completely drawn in to this tale.
The story captured my imagination completely and I would definitely recommend The Once and Future Witches if you fancy something that blends magic, family and friendship and some unforgettable characters in the Eastwood sisters.