Cover Image: The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

'The Once and Future Witches' follows the three Eastwood sisters -Juniper, Agnes, and Beatrice in late 1800s New Salem. These sisters had misunderstandings among themselves but now unite to reclaim women's rights, witches rights and fight against misogyny.

- dark, atmospheric vibe
- historic tidbits. Your enjoyment of the book is enhanced as you read about the real life events that happened.
- sapphic love
- feminist glory
- magic systems, family spells, magic wrt men and women
- LOTS of quotes to underline

- could've been shorter
- pace drags in some places but as i said above, if you read up on the history, you won't mind.

Read if you love sisterhood novels, magic worlds, history, witches, feminism.
Was this review helpful?
This was so good!

Written like it's part of a fairytale, part journal, part book of shadows this witchy fictional book set in the suffragette era was a really entertaining read.

I'd never read anything by Alix E. Harrow till now and I will certainly be watching for future books from this author!
Was this review helpful?
I was really excited to read this one. It sounded like a bit of a mix between fantasy and historical fiction - two genres that I absolutely love to read. The premise for the story really enticed me, and I was keen to get those witchy vibes.

I did enjoy the story, but I didn't connect with it as much as I was hoping to. I found the narrative a bit unnecessarily long-winded, which meant I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to. However, the writing was beautiful and gave fantastic imagery, and the characters themselves really sold it for me. They had depth, were engaging and intriguing, and really helped to elevate the book. 

It's a shame it wasn't quite as good as I anticipated, but I think lots of other readers would love it more than me.
Was this review helpful?
I have wanted to read this beautiful looking book for over a year. This author's debut was a stunning piece of magical historical fiction and she's followed it up with something just as good - maybe even better.

In this book, the author beautifully weaves together historical fiction and fantasy. She whisks us back to an alternative late 1800s Salem during the time when the suffragettes are fighting the good fight. But there's an underlying current. Because these women don't just want rights for women. They want to bring back the old powers, the magic and witchcraft their ancestors passed on to them through the generations.

The author makes this blend of desire for rights for women and power for witches make a lot of sense, as the many burnings of women over the years prior to when this story was set inspires this kind of fantasy where women can truly fight back agains "the man", fighting fire with a whole different kind of fire.

Our fiery protagonists are three sisters - Juniper, Agnes and Beatrice. The three are estranged but find themselves brought together in New Salem when a magical event occurs. The three sisters are as different as can be, from feisty young Juniper who is determined to fight for what's right, to studied, careful Beatrice who has adjusted to a quiet life as a librarian. Together, the three sisters are the maiden, the mother and the crone. It's a classic combination, and the author beautifully weaves fairytales and folklores throughout their story.

Despite being packed with magic and intrigue, at just over 500 pages this book does feel a little slow in places. But I do have to look at the bigger picture, and the exquisite writing combined with an atmospheric historical setting, authentic characters with real issues that women still face and a whole lot of magic - this book has completely earned its five stars from me.
Was this review helpful?
Here we have a powerful, feminist, magical tale. 

I have to congratulate the author as the writing is exquisite! I admired her research for this book as you can clearly see the social, political and historical contexts of the era. I also liked the fact that her way of writing is adjusted to that time too and feels like an old classic read. 

The characters are so powerful, strong willed, determined and empowering. I felt so represented only by reading this! As a woman, I found myself drawing strength and wanting to be part of such a story. 

The magic world was well structured and rich and I wouldn’t change anything in it. 

I cannot recommend this book enough!
Was this review helpful?
The author’s voice clearly shone through in this book. The descriptions were beautiful, showing us exactly what was happening, tugging at the heartstrings and creating a fantastic atmosphere. I wanted to know what was happening so badly, but I wanted to savour every single moment, really taking in every description. I also loved the fairytales and folklore. It was so interesting and grabbed my attention.

Overall, a really solid story that I enjoyed and would probably read again! Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author, for a chance to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
trigger warning
<spoiler> mention of abortion, mention of rape, torture, misogyny, suicide, plague, domestic violence, trauma, child abuse </spoiler>

When the three sisters meet again, each of them thinks herself alone in a world full of misogyny and hate. When they meet again, they feel drawn to each other by more than threads of siblinghood, and they can feel the magic rising.

This is a chunky piece of literature, but somehow I swallowed it in two sittings. I am always a bit reluctant to start a hyped book nowadays, and I am always surprised when it makes me fall in love with it. The pages fly past as you follow the story.

There are stories within a story, and you know some version of them, only in this book, they're genderflipped. The Grimms were sisters, and the heroes are always the women because this is their time.

I loved how different magical traditions from different cultures from different parts of this world get acknowledged, how seamlessly queer people fit in there because this is an accurate depiction of reality, enhanced by fantastical elements.
While our three sisters practise magic from an europe-centric viewpoint as white Americans, the author didn't keep it at that, because the protagonists team up with everyone who likes to join them. Sometimes, that mean a tiny moment of confusion when encountering something new, followed by a shrug and a why "Why not?". 

This is one of the rare occasions on which I was not annoyed that a story about witches was set in Salem. It didn't feel like a cheap attempt to give the tale some gravitas through history, it simply fit.

I had fun with this book and will look up what else the author is up to.
I recommend this to people who like fantasy in historical settings, who like witches, and reading about them.
The arc was provided by the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
Not my usual genre of book and didn't quite hit the mark for me. However, I'm sure those who like this genre would really enjoy this book!

It's clear that the author did lots of research prior to writing this book and it is all very well thought out.
Was this review helpful?
This was the perfect spooky read for the season and was very intriguing!

The Once and Future Witches follows three sisters as they miraculous unite in New Salem, where their unresolved conflicts cause tension. Its firstly important to mention that as the story progresses, the tension decreases. It is nice to see the sisterly bond grow between the three, and I felt that one of the more prominent themes of this book is the importance of sisterhood. 

I began this book very blindly and finished it with many more things being considered about the history of our world, which is often told in a very plain manner. This book follows a historically controversial topic of witching, whilst the also controversial suffragette movement is taking place. Something I really loved about this book was how many of the themes allowed me to think about how minorities like coloured women and the LGBTQ community would have been treated in this time. It’s something that is often neglected in the historical curriculum but is even more important. How Alix manages to intertwine all these various themes is beyond me, but it is done so seamlessly. 

Feminism is crucial in this book, whether that be with the suffragette’s movement or just how the women team up to crush men (as they should ). I love how this theme is executed.

Perhaps a more sensitive theme is domestic abuse. Readers have their attention drawn to the father of the three sisters who is abusive and toxic towards them, making us see juniper as somewhat heroic for killing the monster he was. Their father serves as an example for how a toxic family dynamic can be soul crushing. We also see Mr Hill representing a similar danger, and Juniper’s heroism shines again when she sacrifices her life to protect Eve from the shackles of an abusive male figure. 

A powerful message I took away from this was the strength of unity which is effectively demonstrated by how the women tackle issues better when they are a team. I doubt many of their victories would have been possible had they been conducted individually. I really enjoyed how empowering this book was to read, especially as a woman. 

I really enjoyed the use of fairy tales at the start of each chapter, and similar writing styles for each section narrated by each sister. It really illustrated the fact they are sisters and presented them in a more unified manner. I enjoyed the intertwining of the past with the present and future, whether that be with the history of the girls and their father & grandmother, or the witches before them. 

However, I did feel that at some points the book dragged and was repetitive at times. But overall, this was a great read, and is worthy of all praise. Alix has presented us with something very different to what we are used to and has done so in a remarkable way.
Was this review helpful?
What a beautiful, beautiful book. Harrow has the most mesmerising writing style that is just so pretty! Every sentence is lyrical and carefully strung together without the descriptions been overly flowery which is exactly how i like my books. 

The Once and Future Witches is set in America, New Salem in the 1890’s, a time where women were fighting hard for the right to vote. We follow three sisters with a messy past and a struggled relationship as they try to bring back witching to the women of the world. I adored the sapphic relationship between a black woman and a white woman, and the fact that Juniper requires the use of a cane to walk. Harrow twists old folktales to centre women, and creates the idea that magic is never gone. It’s in nursery rhymes and folklore and fairytales and songs, passed down for witching women to find. 

This book felt wild. But not wild in a way that  the content was wild. It just made me feel wild. Like running through grass and smelling fresh rain. It made me feel empowered. Definitely a new favourite!

Buzzwords: witches, feminism, women empowerment, suffrage, 1890’s America, sapphic relationship, MC with a walking disability
Was this review helpful?
I loved Harrow's writing style and storytelling in her first book,  so I was really excited to get a copy of this early to review. This is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year and I was so so hyper to get this, completely fangirling and much squealing may have been involved! I really wasn’t disappointed I can tell you now just like her first book the writing is powerful, lyrical and beautiful , even more it’s so undeniably feminist, sisterhood and women’s rights, unapologetically so as is right ! This is a powerful read that covers the generations, about fighting for what you deserve, your rights and what you are entitled to, no matter the cost. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, I can’t over emphasise how amazing the story and writing is, basically wether you love witches, feminism, a powerful story or just an amazing read, this book is for you. Stunningly good.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
I went into this book super excited. How could I not be? Witches in a historic setting, Alix E. Harrow as a writer? It had everything I wanted to be perfect. Yet, something about it made me unable to connect and enjoy the read. I liked the voice, even though I found it distant, I liked the setting and the idea of the characters. But unfortunately it fell a bit flat for me and I couldn't connect with the story or the characters. It was disappointing, but I can still see  why people love this book. It's special and well written and at times very interesting. Unfortunately, I just wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?
Spooky, magical and wonderfully character driven, the Once and Future Witches is another hit from Alix E Harrow that is absolutely unputdownable
Was this review helpful?
I really struggled with this book, not because it was bad because it wasn’t but just that it didn’t really suck me in. I wanted more, more action, more plot, more character interplay. 

The writing was fine, nothing really wrong, I just found that the story took a very long time to go anywhere.
Was this review helpful?
The Once and Future Witches is an epic and empowering read which had me hooked from the start.

“Heat hisses through her veins. An unnatural wind whips towards the center of the square. It smells like drying herbs and wild roses. Like magic.”

This book is the superpower of fairy tales! It is an incredible book with an emphasis on the power of female bonds.

“There is no such thing as witches, but there used to be.

It used to be the air was so thick with magic you could taste it on your tongue like ash. Witches lurked in every tangled wood and waited at every midnight-crossroad with sharp-toothed smiles. They conversed with dragons on lonely mountaintops and road rowan wood brooms across full moons; they charmed the stars to dance beside them on the solstice and rode to battle with familiars at their heels. It used to be witches were wild as crows and fearless as foxes because magic blazed bright and the night was theirs.

But then came the plague and the purges. The dragons were slain and the witches were burned and the night belonged to men with torches and crosses.”

In The Once and Future witches not only was magic gone from the world but also the power was firmly in the hands of the men.  All you needed for magic was the will, the words and the way but the will was often beaten down and broken and the ways and words were confined to spells for use around the home and hearth. The traditional domains of women.

Anyone who knows about fairy tales knows that three and witchcraft knows that three is often an important number. It is no coincidence that this book focuses on three sisters.

“James Juniper Eastwood was the youngest, with hair as ragged and black as crow feathers. She was the wildest of the three.”

Juniper is wanted for murder. A wildcard who has come to New Salem to join the budding suffragette movement and is burning with resentment at her sisters for abandoning her to their abusive father.

“Agnes Amaranth Eastwood was the middle sister, with hair as shining and black as a hawks eye. She was the strongest of the three, the one who knew how to work and keep working, tireless as the tide.

But on the spring equinox of 1895, she is weak.”

Agnes is in trouble and though she may not know it yet she needs her sister. If only she can see fit to forgive and forget the betrayals of the past.

“Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood was the oldest sister, with hair like owl feathers: soft and dark, streaked with early grey. She was the wisest of the three. The quiet one, the listening one, the one who knew the feel of a books spine in her palm and the weight of words in the air. But on the spring equinox of 1893, she is a fool.”

Bella also needs her sisters for a big battled ahead but can she count on them?

“The wayward sisters, hand in hand, Burned and bound, our stolen crown, But what is lost that can’t be found?”

I loved the way many of the spells and charms within the book were hidden in old fairy tales and nursery rhyme fragments, in oral storytelling, and other traditionally female domains. Disregarded by men because they were considered to be insignificant.

I loved the progression of the sisters throughout the book and the way the book both mirrored and destroyed the traditional fairy story trope.

“Once upon a time there were three sisters. They were born in a forgotten kingdom that smelled of honeysuckle and mud, where the Big Sandy ran wide and the sycamores shone white as knuckle-bones on the banks. The sister’s had no mother and a no-good father, but they had each other; it might have been enough.

But the sisters were banished from their kingdom, broken and scattered.”

The Once and Future Witches was an outstanding book.
Was this review helpful?
The Once and Future Witches

When Agnes, Bella, and Juniper Eastwood, there was no such thing as witches. Only the little charms and nursery rhymes were taught to them by their grandmother.  After years of separation, the three Eastwood sisters reunited in New Salem in 1893. At a time during the start of the fight for women’s suffrage. The three sisters hope to turn the civil rights movement into a witch’s movement.  Searching for old magic and forming new alliances. All whilst they are hunted by forces who do not want women to vote and witches to live.

At 517 pages, this is one of the longest books I have read this year, and at times it felt like it. The Once and Future Witches is a slow read with lots of characters. In fact, it seemed like new characters were constantly added to the story, and at times it became hard to keep track of them all. That aside, I loved the plot of this book and especially the bond between the three sisters. How they used their witching powers to help women gain more rights. The idea of using magic to fight for the right to vote and help create better working conditions.  I also loved how nursery rhymes and fairy tales served as old spells. And how they intertwine within the story, as old witch spells hidden in plain sight.
Was this review helpful?
Absolutely adored this book. It is a beautiful story, set in New Salem, about 3 sisters - the Eastwoods - and they join the suffragists of the town. They find out more about the magic of the area and find out about a time when there were 'no witches' supposedly and they get caught up in mysteries that are magical and compelling.

A wonderful story, so very well written. Harrow's language and prose is just beautiful and compelling and I just did not want to put the book down. Thank you netgally for my eArc. I will be off to purchase this book when it is out.
Was this review helpful?
It is 1898 in New Salem and the estranged Eastwood sisters come together to bring back magic to empower the suffrage movement. Wronged women soon join their cause to fight back against the engrained misogyny that threatens their very existence. Tapping into their hidden power and strength they fight back against sexism, racism and classism. 

Am uplifting and beautiful story that weaves in familiar historical fact and fairy tales into moving and powerful adventure. Lyrical prose and magical realism at its very best. Loved it 😍
Was this review helpful?
Truly astonishing. One of the best books I've ever read and the absolute pinnacle of what fantasy can be. Despite being fraught with incredible pacing, there's still time for some incredible character building, worldbuilding, and real depth of thought. I gave up reading the netgalley version and just bought a copy. I'd sold it to several people within a day of starting it.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this!

The premise is very interesting, and I love books about witches so I was very excited to pick this up. I loved how the story first develops and I really thought by being introduced to all the sisters in their perspectives was a really good way to start the story. I also really loved the writing as well for how pretty and "flowy" it is but also still accessible to read, which I sometimes find books in this genre/theme tried to be but failed.
Was this review helpful?