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The Once and Future Witches

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Spooky, magical and wonderfully character driven, the Once and Future Witches is another hit from Alix E Harrow that is absolutely unputdownable
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 😍
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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.
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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.
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An exciting, intimate look into the lives of women during a dark time where they fight for their rights, with magic, words, their wills and everything they have to live a life worth living and loving while they can. Three sister's brought together again whether by fate or coincidence each with problems of their own fight tooth and nail against a darkness, an evil that wants to destroy, burn down and purge all they stand for. With words, the will and the way they may just pull it off. An unforgettable, inspiring read I thoroughly enjoyed.
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Once upon a time there were witches to be found in every town and village, but after systematic pursuing of anyone suspected of witchcraft everyone assumed that it was a thing of the past, not to be found in the modern world of 1893. But unknown to most, it lingered on in nursery rhymes and songs sung to children, and when the Eastwood sisters decide to pursue witchcraft as a means of gaining women's independence they find many people coming forward with knowledge of the old ways and eager to support them. Obviously they have opponents - most noticeable and dangerous being the new mayoral candidate Gideon Hill, a man who, despite his opposition to witchcraft, seems to command even shadows to do his bidding. The sisters must put aside their differences and work together as maiden, mother and crone to survive.

I totally adored The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E Harrow's debut novel, and was hoping to find the same enchantment with The Once and Future Witches, but while I found it an enjoyable read it somehow didn't have the same magic. I suspect this is something extremely personal and quantifiable so don't let me put you off. The story is an intriguing one, set against a backdrop of a subtly-altered late 19th century when women were campaigning to be given the vote. In part it's about the freedom of women (and even men) to act and love as they choose; in part it's about the return of witchcraft to further those aims.
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This book sounded like the ideal autumn read for me... Just say witches, and I get in the mood. However, I wasn't really immersed in the story as I wanted to be, and at one point I even considered not finishing it. It's not that this is a bad book by any means, and this is after all, just a personal opinion.

I liked the characterisation, I thought the characters were very well done. For me, I felt that even though the book had everything you need to love the sisterly connection between them and to get drawn in by it...I just didn't feel it. 

I felt it was too long, and if it was 150 pages shorter, perhaps it would have been an easier read, overall more succinct and pleasurable to read. 

I loved the authors writing, since I do tend to like purple prose, and this was on the verge of that. 

When I think about this book, I feel like it's not a book I would want to reread, and it's also not a book that left a lasting impression on me. It feels more like those enjoyable reads for the season, if you have plenty of time on your hands and you want your October to include a witchy read. This just didn't do anything for me personally, though I think others will still enjoy it.
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“Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…” She gestures in midair again. “They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have…”

There are no such thing as witches, not anymore. Those that came before were burned, and Salem lies in ruins. A new city arose, and New Salem is a place of order and Christianity. A woman’s only hope of power lies within the ballot box, yet this way is blocked. 

When three estranged sisters – the youngest wild and impetuous, hiding a terrible secret; the next with a steady spirit and a secret of her own; the oldest wise but nursing deep emotional wounds - come together in New Salem, they must try to work with each other and the suffrage movement for both women and witches alike, because the price of failure will be too awful to bear.

This intricate novel may have been slow to start, but once it got going it was superb. Set in 1893, it considers women’s rights at the time of the suffragist movement, conflating the proscription against witchcraft with the exclusion of women from the ballot box, and also exploring civil rights, feminism, gender identity, family, and attitudes to sexuality. This makes it sound incredibly heavy and boring, but I promise you that it’s anything but.

Enter the three Eastwood sisters – James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna. The first part of the novel concentrates on establishing the personality, history, and nature of each of our protagonists, which is why it takes a little while to get going. There’s a lot of flicking back and forth between the three which is slightly confusing at first, but it passes once you get into the meat of the story. That doesn’t mean the reader can afford to not pay full attention: this is not a book you’ll be able to just pick up for ten minutes in between doing other things – it deserves your full attention, so find somewhere quiet to curl up with a coffee and indulge yourself.

There are so many touches in this novel that I love, from the use of common nursery rhymes in the spells to the comment on why women’s dresses no longer have pockets to the foreshadowing in a description of the sisters’ hair. It may be a work of fiction, but so many of the injustices against women, homosexuals and people of colour happened in history, and Harrow obviously spent a lot of time researching before putting pen to paper (so to speak).  

There’s really not much more I can say without giving away spoilers. Enjoy!

I received a free reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”   #TheOnceandFutureWitches #AlexEHarrow  #LittleBrownBook  

Genre: #Fantasy #HistoricalFantasy #Witches #Feminist 

My rating: 3 / 5 

Books: 1/1 

I really wanted to love this book, since it had everything, I love. History, Witches, rebellions, but this book just wasn’t for me. I considered to DNF it after the half, but then I forced myself to finish it, because I was hoping that it would get better. It did get better, but not enough to say I’ve enjoyed reading it. 

Let’s discuss why... 

Feminism. This is one of the most feministic books I’ve read! For some it might be a huge advantage of the book, for me though, I felt it was over-exaggerated. I rolled the eyes every time when something bad happened and it was caused by men (obviously). We have three main characters, three sisters, who are very different and are dealing with personal issues/past traumas left by the witchcraft and their father. They start to practice magic, using long forgotten words and rituals. 

The main historical issue of this book is time, when women fought for the right to vote. There was a movement for the Women Rights, sisters try to change that movement into witch’s movement. 

Too many unnecessary facts, random/one-time characters appearing, without specific need. It made some parts of the book tedious. Due to that it felt that this book would never end... 

I will stop ranting... Things that did impress me... 

Author did an incredible job by documenting historical facts, social and political issues of the time (end of 1890’s), women's role in society, described marginalization in different parts of community.  

A lot of issues that author is covering in this book are present in the modern-day society, she writes about sexism, racial issues, homophobia, women's rights.  

I think my main issue with this book was, I started reading it as a fantasy, but in reality it’s more of a magical realism.
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The Once and Future Witches introduces the story of three sisters thanks to a poetic writing, full of historical details. It's not always easy to picture an era that isn't yours but the precise historical elements allow the reader to fully immerse in the society of New Salem during the year 1893. As I said, the writing is quite poetic and so is the magic system, based on tales and songs passed from one woman to another.

The reader discovers all these elements through the eyes of the Eastwood sisters and I found the transition between the sisters' narrations to be very fluid. I had no attachment to any character, even if I liked Juniper's sharp tongue and hot temper, maybe because they were a bit stubborn and naive in their acts. They are less than perfect but it makes them much more human. I also had trouble with the large number of characters, some of them being present only in the beginning and at the end of the novel and thus difficult to remember. However, we have enough elements on each character and particularly the sisters to be involved in the story and continue reading.

What I liked the most was how Alix E. Harrow used history to tackle social issues that are still a part of our societies today. Witchcraft is just an excuse to create a plot evolving around the fight for equality and justice, and these for everyone. I agree with the representation of social movements this book presents. There isn't one side fighting against another. Instead, you have people with different ideas and values that are sometimes somewhat similar. And some of these people are ready to betray others because they don't have exactly the same representation of a subject.
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I was granted eARC access to The Once and Future Witches (UK release) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to whoever approved the request! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest. 

This title has been on my TBR since the first reviewers of the US release were raving about it. When the UK release came up for eARC request I jumped at the change to read it! Alas, it didn't live up to the hype for me. 

The trouble-plagued sisterhood of witches in this book is full of American Home Owners' Association comprised entirely of Karens level petty politics and I got bored. The premise is interesting, there's a plot there, and the writing is beautiful, but this book didn't convince me to actually care about any of the characters, so all I felt was annoyed and bored. DNF at 50%
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Thank you NetGalley and Little Brown Group for sending me a copy of this book.

The Once and Future Witches explores the life of fairy tales and nursery rhymes in the context of a fictional historical setting. In this world, witchcraft is very real and is realised through 'the words, the will, and the way' of women. The narrative follows three sisters, Juniper, Bella, and Agnes and they are each the main character of the story in their own right. This was the first issue I had with the book, at times it became overwhelming and heavy because each of the main characters seemed to be fighting for their story to be heard the loudest and, whilst it began and ended with Juniper (arguably the most interesting of the three sisters), Agnes' story felt like the loudest of them all which overshadowed her sisters. 

This book is full of representation, to the point that it felt like it was representation for the sake of representation. For example, once of the side characters is revealed to be transgender near the end of the book even though there's no hint towards this throughout the rest of the narrative and the revelation comes out of nowhere, it's simply there so the book can say 'hey look at me I have a trans character'. I liked the representation, don't get me wrong, but it did feel like it was just a little too much and added to the overwhelming feel of the book in general.

Another contributing factor to the book feeling overwhelming, which was both a blessing and a curse, was the world and lore building. The magic felt intricate and truly unique and the writing was beautiful in places in ways that made me shiver with delight; I believe that if everything else hadn't clogged the book up so much and made it feel so heavy, this world and lore building wouldn't have felt like such a slog. Unfortunately, because of the culmination of all of this though, it felt like too much and I struggled to keep up. 

Overall, even though the ending felt drawn out (it could realistically have ended halfway through and potentially be split off into a better paced sequel), I did enjoy this book to a certain extent. I wouldn't rush to read it again, nor am I sure that I would recommend it to a friend unless I knew for certain that it would be something they could handle and enjoy, but I gave it 3.5 stars. Be warned, this is not a light, easy read. It is something that will take your time and patience to truly appreciate.
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I will be returning to review this later today, as I want to take my time and include some of the themes and quotes that stuck with me, but I wanted to say straight off that I loved this book!  Thank you so much to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read this ahead of publication.  

I think we are trained to expect a fast pace, and a throwaway tale from witchy reads and magical tales, but this is slow-paced and delicious!

I think I will re-read this every October.
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"Once upon a time there were three sisters"

After what felt like forever I finally finished this book. I wanted to like this book, I really did, but unfortunately I didn't 😖😖😖

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

I started by saying that I totally didn't know what to expect, I only knew it was about witches, which is kinda obvious.🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️ After reading few pages I realized it's also about fighting for woman's right and secrets and revenge. 🫀🗡️

"The Ladies Union of Giving the Bastards What's Coming to Them"

After getting kicked out of suffrage movement our three heroin sister's start's their own witchy movement. 🔥🔥🔥

"Witchy as hell"

My main problem with this book was writing style. It was soooo slowwww🐢🐢🐢 I never dnf books, but I considered it many times reading this book because reading it felt like being tortured in hell. 👿👿👿

"May sticks and stones break your bones, And serpents stop your heart"

Overall the plot wasn't really bad, it has it moments, but it was too slow. I didn't care about characters nor I understand their motives. I wasn't interested if they die☠️, their secrets were predictable and ending was too🤡 I just wanted this pain to end😩😩😩

"What would we be recruiting them to, exactly?" Juniper says, "Hell-raising"👻👻👻

Thank you NetGalley and Little Brown Book UK for providing digital advanced copy in exchange for honest review.
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HHave you ever read a book with such good writing that you kind of want to cry, and that’s before you even take into account the magnificent characters and incredible story? And when it comes to review it, you just kind of want to flail your hands around like Kermit after a few cocktails? The Once and Future Witches is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read in 2021.

As an aspiring writer, this book is kind of devastating because I could never, but as a reader, this book is. Well, Kind of devastating, but in the best way. It is a feminist book, sure, and even though the antagonist is a man, it is not a man-hating book. It’s a story about magic, witchcraft and an incredible community that comes together to defy the odds and I love an odds-defying story. I love that there are so many characters to root for; this is a book in which the background characters come alive, as much as our three heroines. I cannot stress enough how clever this book is. It starts out by introducing us to the three Eastwood sisters, who are deeply dissimilar to each other. The recurrent themes of Crone and Mother and Maiden are woven through this book, together with fairytales and a cleverly gender-switched history (the Grimm Sisters, and Alexandra Pope). 

You do not meet a character like Juniper very often; she’s special and she’s stubborn and she’s fierce and she’s not always likeable but she’s impossible not to root for.

She’s the fierce one, the feral one, the witch who lives free in the wild woods. She’s the siren and the silky, the virgin and the valkyrie; Artemis and Athena. She’s the little girl in the red cloak who doesn’t run from the wolf but walks arm in arm with him deeper into the woods.

Her sisters, Agnes and Beatrice, are just as compelling, with their own ferocity, Mother and Crone. Agnes is driven by the force of her love for her unborn daughter and Beatrice, a librarian without a library, comes into her strength too, and hers is a wonderful love story, as she finds herself entranced by Cleopatra Quinn. 

This is a story about how the Eastwood sisters find their way back to each other, and back to witching, and it’s a story about so many revolutions, which ripple out from the town of New Salem. It’s a story about witchcraft – the way, the word and the will: That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need. 

This is also a story with superb LGBT representation; not just the evolving relationship between Beatrice and Cleo, but look out for the story of Jennie Lind, too. 

Rating: 5 stars (I’d give it six)
TL;DR: A gorgeously written book about witchcraft, and sisters, and power.
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A beautifully written atmospheric read about the three witch sisters! I was sucked right in into this magical world of witchcraft. Harrow's writing is blissful with elegant evocation of atmosphere and her descriptions are encapsulating. 

I however struggled to connect with the characters of Beatrice & Juniper. That being said, the narrative & story line more than made up for it. Harrow explores the complex relationship between them and her imagination is simply fantastic. 

I highly recommend this for all fantasy readers!
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