The Once and Future Witches
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Published: October 15th, 2020 by Orbit (UK) and October 13th, 2020 by Redhook (US)
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Witchy as HELL! The Once and Future Witches was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and Alix E. Harrow absolutely, unequivocally, brought the magic.
I first picked up The Ten Thousand Doors of January earlier this year (2020) and loved it beyond description. In fact, that book now occupies a space on my favourites shelf. It is unsurprising then, that The Once and Future Witches was one of my most anticipated book releases of the year. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to read this book before the official release date. The icing on the bookish cake is that I have had the privilege of reading not just one, but two of Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding stories in less than seven months and both have filled me with an unbridled sense of wonder.
“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”
Once upon a time, the world was a place of saints and dragons and magic and villains. Witches were real and they were powerful. The good stuff, real witching, has long since passed from the world though. Purges and plagues took care of that. These days the word encompasses small charms, passed down from mother to daughter, little more consequential than preventing a pot from boiling over or keeping hair just so. Witching is nothing but stories now, and those stories have been twisted to paint witches as wicked, vile things.
“There were three of us Eastwood sisters, me and Agnes and Bella, so maybe they’ll tell our story like a witch-tale. Once upon a time, there were three sisters.”
Agnes, Bella & Juniper have not seen or heard from each other in seven years. They used to live hand in hand, as close as sisters could be, but their childhood home was not a kind place to live and eventually, both Agnes & Bella fled, leaving Juniper to fend for herself. Home was her sisters, once, but that was before she was abandoned. As we fall into this story, Juniper is on the run from the law, wanted for witchcraft and murder. She has no plan or destination in mind but ends up in New Salem, wandering around until she finds herself at a rally promoting suffrage for women. It is a call to action and it speaks to Juniper. She finds herself furious. There’s a thing inside her that is hungry for something to burn. She wants more. To fight for something. And then, suddenly, the world comes undone.
“Witchcraft, pure as dragon’s blood and bright as stardust, unspoken for centuries.”
Old magic. Real Magic. Juniper is soon shocked to find herself staring at familiar faces. Both Bella and Agnes are in the city and the pull of this powerful working has brought them all together. A witch cast that spell and Juniper believes that they need to find out the truth of it. Bonds broken are not so easily mended though, and the sisters will have to work hard at restoring what they have lost. Juniper is convinced the answer lies with the suffragists and joins up. When she uses magic to draw attention to a suffragist protest, the city is thrown in turmoil, and Juniper soon discovers that there is another force at work, a malicious one, and it may just be a wicked witch.
“…witching was power and any power could be perverted, if you were willing to pay the price. You can tell the wickedness of a witch by the wickedness of her ways.”
While the Eastwood sisters and a number of other characters thoroughly worked their way into my heart (and Alix E Harrow has an absolute gift for writing wonderful characters), one of my favourite things about this book is the writing. Oh, friends, the writing… C’est parfait. I could gush about the sheer magnetism of Alix E. Harrow’s storytelling. How her exquisite prose pulls me in and envelops me in the story, captivating and mesmerising from start to finish. The craftsmanship of every word, sentence and chapter. Lush and lyrical, enchanting and evocative, beauteous and bewitching. She may only claim the title of Author, but she is worthy of Wordsmith. Or perhaps, Wordwitch?
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Tell the truth, reveal all.
A spell to see, requiring a mirror & a borrowed belonging
The Once and Future Witches is a wonderfully witchy and thought-provoking tale of three sisters and their fight to break the restrictions placed upon them and all women for that matter. It is a story of how women are made out to be lesser. Asked to be this way. Told to be that way. Not asked anything at all. But it is also a story of taking back power, of agency, of responsibility. One of will and of getting back up. A story of hope and inclusion and family.
“A girl is such an easy thing to break: weak and fragile, all alone, all yours. But they aren’t girls anymore, and they don’t belong to anyone. And they aren’t alone.”
I loved every page of it.
Come October you can be sure there will be an open spot on my bookshelf waiting patiently for my second Alix E. Harrow novel to arrive.
• Official release date: October 15th, 2020 (UK) and October 13th, 2020 (US)
• You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)
• The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.