Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

A story that is part historical, part witchy, and 100% feminist

Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.

After falling in love with The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I was eager to have the chance to read more by this author! Unapologetically feminist, with magic, and suffragist history – what more could I ask for?

The Once and Future Witches book cover

The Once and Future Witches

by Alix E. Harrow

Published September 13, 2020 by Orbit
ISBN: 0316422045

Data from Goodreads

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.

My Review: More Than Just A Witchy Story

Rep: LGBTQIA+, multicultural feature

Just as it says in its description, this book brings history and magic together to present a strong feminist tale.

The Pros: What worked for me

  • For a story that has so much historical context, the pacing was quite good. The author took time to develop the framework but also ensured that events unfolded quickly.
  • I love the use of mixed media – in this novel, the author included newspaper articles into the story and it made for great fun!
  • I really liked the characters in this story. Every female character had a distinct personality and was well created.
  • Just like in Ten Thousand Doors of January, the writing is poetic and beautiful. I savoured every line of it!
  • The feminist themes were well done here. Yes, it was very in-your-face but the reader is clearly aware of that before getting into the story. I like the way the author took this theme and interwove it into the story so that readers were just as invested in the plot as the message behind it. 
  • Throughout the book, there are short stories that take common fairy tales and “flip” them to show an alternate version – these were a highlight of the reader experience!

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • While the author clearly did her research with the historical context, I wanted a bit more backstory for the magic systems mentioned in the story.
  • This is a personal pet peeve: I didn’t like Bella. She is one of the 3 sisters in the story and I found her annoying.

Overall, this novel really appealed to me. It was beautiful to look at and beautifully written. It functions well as a standalone with everything wrapped up nicely, but it was impactful enough that it kept me thinking long after I finished reading it. Although I preferred The Ten Thousand Doors of January, there is no doubt that Alix E. Harrow is a talented author. I cannot wait to read more by her!

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