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The Once and Future Witches

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2020)
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.

517 pages, Hardcover

First published October 13, 2020

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About the author

a former academic, adjunct, cashier, blueberry-harvester, and kentuckian, Alix E. Harrow is now a full-time writer living in virginia with her husband and their semi-feral kids.

she is the author of hugo-award-winning short fiction, and her debut novel, THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY (redhook/orbit 2019), was a finalist for the hugo, nebula, locus, world fantasy, and goodreads choice awards. her second book, THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES, is out now, and A SPINDLE SPLINTERED, a Sleeping Beauty novella, is coming out in fall 2021!

her writing is represented by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

newsletter: https://writtenworld.substack.com/
email: alixeharrow at gmail.com
twitter: AlixEHarrow
insta: alix.e.harrow

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,695 reviews
Profile Image for  Teodora .
278 reviews1,527 followers
January 31, 2023
Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

3/5 ⭐

I honestly, HONESTLY wished I could give this book more stars but I simply couldn't.
This is an unpopular opinion, but it's my personal experience with it so I'll just say it as it is.

I was very excited when I got this, I was sure that this is going to be such a great read for me and, in the beginning, it actually was, I was still pretty excited. But after about 1/4 of the book, I felt how I lose interest.
I couldn't feel any kind of attachment towards the characters and they sometimes felt too lost in their own world, too stubborn, too shallow for their own good.
There were also lots of other characters that appeared out of nowhere and as much as I wanted to remember all of them, they kind of overwhelmed and confused me.
Info-dumping was too a bit much at some points, extending the book more than necessary; I felt like it was too much for nothing that couldn't have been outlined in a few phrases here and there.

All those aspects made the reading slow and a bit unpleasant for me, because between not really connecting with the characters and the too-much-information passages, I kind of forgot about my initial excitement regarding the book.

There were great aspects to it, I'm not being a little petty witch to forget about them. The book itself is well-documented, it's obvious that the author did her homework really well. The social, political and historical aspects are also strong here and the idea of, you know, powerful, magical, anarchist ladies is what I love to see in books.

I am so sorry I didn't like this as much as I wanted and I still want to like. But I cannot lie if my heart wasn't; there with it.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,063 reviews38k followers
July 5, 2022
Oh my goodness! I think I can write millions of times the same word over and over again! I loved it so much! I loved it so much! I loved it so much! I loved it so much! I loved it so much! I loved it so much! I loved it so much!

Okay! That’s enough! Mesmerizing, earth shattering world building, well-crafted, fantastic characters, unputdownable magical, witchy world you never want to leave : a great waltz of fantasy, historical fiction and romance!

Hollywood producers who are looking for great stories, please stop procrastinating and pick this up instead of burying your heads into nonsense remakes! This is freaking good!
As a second time the author stole my heart!!!

Profile Image for jessica.
2,475 reviews29.6k followers
November 5, 2020
‘she thinks of the ways people make for themselves when there are none, the impossible things they render possible.’

this is a really lovely tale. there is such an elegant quality to the storytelling and characters that really benefits the messages of empowerment this book holds.

the writing is probably the storys greatest strength. its really quite exquisite. it feels traditional, but approachable. vivid, yet grounded. it showcases the sisterly bond between witches in a tone that is lighter than other stories about witchcraft.

my only critique would be the pacing is very slow and lost my interest at times. theres only so much admirable characters and pretty words can do. maybe i was in the mood for something more engaging and not something so narrative heavy. but it feels quite unfair to give this anything less than 4 stars.

i think readers who are willing to be patient enough to see this story through will find it just as magical and inspirational as i did, if not more!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,499 reviews24.5k followers
August 17, 2020
Alix E Harrow replicates the wondrous magic of The Ten Thousand Doors of January which I adored, in this character driven feminist adventure story in this fierce and beautiful homage to the power of women in all their forms, including the three female archetypes represented by the Eastwood sisters, the mother, the maiden and the crone. It is a time where the power of the history of witches and witchcraft has been diminished to virtually nothing, existing only in the below the radar voices and rhymes. It is 1893, the Eastwood sisters were once close, but splintered apart and estranged for many years, suffering at the hands of their abusive father, only to meet and be drawn together once again at a suffragette rally at St George's Square in New Salem, bringing their considerable strengths to join the fight for women's right to vote.

The three sisters are different and distinct characters in their own right, Beatrice Belladonna is the eldest, Agnes Amarath, and the youngest, James Juniper, have to face their personal history of pain and sorrow, and in order to deploy magic in the coming battle ahead, they will need the will, the words and the way, recovering the history and power of witchcraft to challenge the rule and domination of men. This is going to be no easy task, there are the widespread fears and divisions in the community and other obstacles on the dangerous path to changing and breaking the existing power structures that divide, discriminate and disempower, and there is a ruthless and menacing force that must be defeated too. In a twisted magical narrative, hope, unity and support is needed and sought amongst other marginalised sectors, such as the black and LBQT+ communities.

Harrow's prose is lyrical in her gripping, compulsive and spellbinding storytelling and her world building is stellar. I found myself totally immersed and caught up in the wide range of diverse characters, rooting for the sisters and their allies. One of the best things about the novel is how it echoes so many of our contemporary realities in the modern world and the issues that divide us, it is a thought provoking read on gender, women's rights, race, homophobia, sexuality, survival, feminism and more. This is a brilliant read, that for me felt so meaningful and captured my imagination, I loved all the Eastwood sisters, having to give up everything in order to gain the possibility of gaining everything. Simply wonderful and highly recommended. Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
Profile Image for Petrik.
653 reviews39.7k followers
December 16, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5 stars

Similar to The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Once and Future Witches will be a big hit among many readers.


Not even a year has passed since its first publication, and The Ten Thousand Doors of January already has 33.3k ratings and 6.7k reviews on Goodreads. For those who don’t pay attention to how the number of Goodreads rating/reviews counts to the popularity and general reception of a specific book, believe me when I say that Harrow has achieved something incredible with her debut at an astonishing rate. I’m confident that the feminist story told in The Once and Future Witches will also appeal to many readers. This, however, doesn’t mean that the content of this novel is similar to The Ten Thousand Doors of January. The Once and Future Witches did retain some of the “love for stories” element in Harrow’s debut, but this is, at its core, a story about sisterhood, justice, and fighting for woman’s rights.

“Association has battled for decades to afford women the same respect and legal rights enjoyed by men. It is a battle we are losing: the American public still sees women as housewives at best and witches at worst. We may be either beloved or burned, but never trusted with any degree of power.”


The story in The Once and Future Witches takes place in the year 1893. There’s no such things as witches, there used to be, but witching is now a simple charm or nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants to be in control of a form of power, their only choices lies at the ballot box. The Eastwood sisters—Juniper, Agnes, Bella—are the three main characters of this story, and they’re looking to transform the women’s movement into the witch’s movement while healing the broken bond between the three of them. There’s no such things as witches. But there will be.

“All of us grew up on stories of wicked witches. The villages they cursed, the plagues they brewed. We need to show people what else we have to offer, give them better stories.”


I do have to mention a caveat that I’m not a huge fan of witches stories; I wouldn’t say I disliked them, I just don’t have a big adoration towards the story. This is also why it’s safe to consider a 3.5 stars rating from me for this novel a high recommendation by my standard. If this novel was written by a less-skillful author, I have a feeling I would’ve given the novel a lower rating. It helped very much to my reading experience, though, that The Once and Future Witches was a thoroughly character-driven story; the three main characters have distinctive personalities, past, and voices to their narration that’s easy to empathize and care for. The themes of justice being discussed in the book are incredibly important in our civilization. It is when the characters gathered, schemed, and fought for their rights and freedom while also doing their best to heal the damages in their bonds that the story excels the most; I wanted even more out of them.

“Must a thing be bound and shelved in order to matter? Some stories were never written down. Some stories were passed by whisper and song, mother to daughter to sister. Bits and pieces were lost over the centuries, I’m sure, details shifted, but not all of them.”


Unfortunately, and this is going to be very subjective, the pacing of the book didn’t click really well with me. In the serious, emotional, or intense moments, I was utterly gripped and compelled to read the book; the pages flew by during these sections. But the slow moments, which I usually love in a character-driven story, felt way too slow at times. Despite Harrow’s continuous display of her beautifully accessible and lyrical prose within her third-person present tense narrative, there were sections where I had to push myself to continue because the plot seemingly fell to a complete halt for me. This was especially true every time the three main characters weren’t together, which—understandably—happened more often than I preferred. Their characterizations and developments with each other were well-realized, though, thankfully.

“Her home was always witch-tales and words, stories into which she could escape when her own became too terrible to bear.”


Although the pacing in the novel didn’t fully click with me, The Once and Future Witches goes to show that Harrow certainly can write great standalone novels. Plus, the ending was satisfying, and I’m sure this is another story that will stick for a long time with many readers.

“She thought a survival was a selfish thing, a circle drawn tight around your heart. She thought the more people you let inside that circle the more ways the world had to hurt you, the more ways you could fail them and be failed in turn. But what if it’s the opposite, and there are more people to catch you when you fall? What if there’s an invisible tipping point somewhere along the way when one becomes three becomes infinite, when there are so many of you inside that circle that you become hydra-headed, invincible?”


Official release date: 15th October 2020 (UK) and 13th October 2020 (US)

You can 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.

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Devin, Hamad, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Zoe.
Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews770 followers
February 6, 2021
10/13/2020: IT’S PUBLICATION DAY! 🥀
“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.” The kind I want, says the hungry shine of her eyes.

It’s a special kind of heartbreak when you want so badly to like a book more than you actually do; this is precisely what happened with me and The Once and Future Witches. I know that many readers will adore this story about suffragette witches—personally, though, its execution just didn't really work for me.

◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️

In this world, there were once witches so powerful they ruled kingdoms for hundreds of years. Witches who could change people’s lives, who could curse the wicked and put entire castles to sleep. But they were hunted and purged, and what magic remains now is watered-down, a flicker where there was once a blazing inferno.

The year is 1893, 110 years since the original Salem was razed to the ground. New Salem—the City Without Sin—has been erected in its place. Juniper, Agnes, and Beatrice, the once inseparable Eastwood sisters, have been estranged for seven years. But on this spring equinox, they are drawn by powerful magic to a square in New Salem, where they witness a tear in the fabric of reality that reveals a mysterious tower in the sky: the key to reclaiming the power that has been denied to them and all witches for centuries.

Together, the sisters form the Sisters of Avalon, a suffragette group for women and witches dedicated to recovering their powers. Along the way, the book (a standalone novel btw!) touches on the rights of Black women, queer women, working-class and poor women.

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Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried (AND VERY HARD I DID) I just couldn’t connect meaningfully with any part of this story.

At the end of the day, the writing and I meshed like oil and water. Harrow writes prose that is just shy of purple—the kind of thickly descriptive storytelling that is overladen with quirky adjectives and metaphors, and that readers will either find wholeheartedly enchanting or vehemently irritating. I was very much in the latter category.

Bear with me as I rant a little bit about a stylistic detail that drove me, personally, up the wall. The first half of the book is encumbered by hyphenated adjectives that I couldn’t stop noticing! (I ended up keeping a list, lol, and it was way longer than it should’ve been.) Every page contained at least three or four words connected by a hyphen, some of which made sense—like “hollow-cheeked”—or were beautiful—“rose-eaten.” Most, though, were absurd and really detracted from my reading experience: feather-fragile, black-bracken, coal-scummed, rattle-creak. And then there were the hyphenated nouns that were utterly unnecessary: youngest-sister, morning-birds, night-creatures, dragon-scales, ear-hair, nothing-girl, north-side, creek-stones, sickle-moon. The weird thing is that after the 40% mark, these hyphenated descriptors pretty much vanished? I was appreciative (it felt much easier to read) but also baffled at the inconsistency.

I also felt that the protagonists, who are meant to represent recurrent female archetypes in fairytales, didn’t end up being more than their tropes: Juniper = Maiden (aka the wild one), Bella = Crone (aka the wise one), Agnes = Mother (aka the strong one). I appreciated specific moments and scenes (see below!) but overall I just couldn’t connect with any of the sisters.

Their respective roles are hammered repeatedly into the reader’s head, akin to the book’s heavy-handed treatment of its themes of feminism and the empowerment of women. Women’s rights—like other issues affecting the autonomy and wellbeing of marginalized people—are not up for debate. But… tell me something I don’t know? Tell me something with nuance and ambivalence? Or at least tell it to me in a way that isn’t weighed down by flowery writing that holds me and my emotions at a distance?

◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️

That being said, there was a not-insignificant number of things about this story that I truly enjoyed.

I loved reading about Bella’s relationship with Cleopatra Quinn, a Black witch. I loved its themes of resistance and rebellion against patriarchy (tempered by Agnes, who recognizes that “Sometimes you can’t fight. Sometimes you can only survive.”). I loved the camaraderie between all of the book’s women characters. And I especially I loved its examination of what counts as knowledge, what should be reproduced and written about in theses, history texts, and sermons. This book head-on tackles the devaluing of women’s knowledge—be it folklore or fairytales, nursery rhymes or recipes—by patriarchal systems. It reclaims these modes of knowledge by imbuing them with literal magic: turns out, the witches’ lost powers have been passed down from generation to generation through folklore, fairytales, nursery rhymes, and recipes. I found this so, so beautiful.

“Must a thing be bound and shelved in order to matter? Some stories were never written down. Some stories were passed by whisper and song, mother to daughter to sister. Bits and pieces were lost over the centuries, I’m sure, details shifted, but not all of them.”

Bottom line: The Once and Future Witches will be an incandescent story that speaks straight to someone’s heart—unfortunately, she isn’t me.

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made a playlist to go with this pretty, pretty novel 🥀



Thank you NetGalley and Redhook Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! All quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance proof and will be checked with the final published copy.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
November 19, 2020
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best fantasy 2020! what will happen?

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fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task: #16 Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman



HAPPY SPOOKTOBER!

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okay, so this was a bit of a cheat on my part. i knew going into it that this wasn’t going to be the most spooktobery of spooktober reads, but my whole deal of “only reading horror in october” is a self-imposed condition-tradition, and since i could justify reading this because witches are a halloween-decoration staple, i let my conscience be my guide because i really REALLY wanted to read it. and while it was in no way scary, it was scary-good.

as much as i loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January, i loved this one even more. it’s as beautifully-written as her debut, but it’s a much bigger story, more ambitious and more rewarding. it’s about three estranged sisters reuniting, but it’s also about Sisterhood; about what women can accomplish when they are united in a common cause, and it’s both a celebration and a triumphant battle cry of defiance and female power.

the worldbuilding is incredibly dense—set in alt-history 1893 in the town of new salem, it loops in historical elements like the suffragette movement, the underground railroad, the triangle shirtwaist factory fire, the salem witch trials, and fairytales (genderswapping their authors into the sisters grimm and a female perrault). harrow packs a lot into this story, but every part has weight and purpose and it never feels overburdened.

the magical elements are handled with great restraint. it’s not (all) presented in big, dramatic, showy spectacles, but in small, household magic cobbled together and repurposed inventively—female ingenuity making the most out of what they have; their magic hidden in plain sight in all the overlooked and underestimated domestic trappings of women’s spheres. it’s a practical, modest; “That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.” here, magic is a legacy handed down through generations, what women use to compensate for what they’re not permitted to have or be or want, or as she so eloquently, alliteratively states, “witchcraft isn’t one thing but many things, all the ways and words women have found to wreak their wills on the world.”

i’m not particularly drawn to witch stories, but in order to fulfill a social anthropology requirement my freshman year at nyu i took a history of witchcraft course that i ended up lo-ving, and reading this, i recognized enough in the detail work to make me appreciate how much dingdang research harrow must have done. i’m in no way slighting her powers of imagination, but there’s a lot of history in this alt-historical, which takes time and effort to accumulate, and skill to incorporate without it seeming clunky. it is also to her credit that she included witchcraft traditions with more of a global consideration than most writers, drawing from the west indies and russian folklore to make a richly textured magical melting pot.

inclusion is, after all, one of the big themes here. historically, witchcraft accusations were essentially a way for a society to rid itself of its troublesome women—to get a new wife, to remove a sexual rival, to punish a trollop, to divest itself of the burden of the elderly. midwives and others who worked in the dark arts of women’s health were also frequently targeted, for all the reasons you’d expect. in repressive societies, nonconformists who offended the olde god-fearing sensibilities could very publicly be executed as witches, keeping potentially unruly women in line. and harrow makes a place for them here, a witchy found family of these mothers and maidens and crones, these whores and abortionists and foreigners, these lesbians and trans women and women who wanted more from life than they were given. AND SHE GIVES THEM BROOMSTICKS.

i love her so much.

four years ago, i read her story The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage (read it for free here), giving it five stars and ending my review with the declaration: “this author has just made my watch list.” then last year, having forgotten that vow and not recognizing the name, i read both The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies (read it for free here), and i gave both of THEM five stars. and that’s pretty rare for me. a five star book means it hit me and lodged in my brainheart. going into this one, i was apprehensive because the early reviews ranged from disappointed to baffled, but that was not at all my own experience—this one hit me hard with its characters and lodged in my brainheart but good with its breathtaking prose and its layers and layers of build. and so many great lines. i'm a filthy page-folder, and even though i didn't want to dog ear this one at first because it is so beautiful, and also because it’s so hard to find a pagefold in a deckle-edged book, eventually i couldn't help myself and i regret nothing.

she has an as-yet-untitled book coming out in 2021, and i cannot wait.

this is more of a note-to-self, but feel free to peer over my shoulder: the whole time i was reading this i was picturing bella as daisy from Giant Days, Vol. 1:



and as i was writing this review today, i realized that confident, messy, impulsive esther would make a fine juniper (tho she's no maiden)



while fierce, independent, and protective susan is very much team agnes.



in short, witches.



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this beauty just arrived at my HOME! and i'm stuck looking at it longingly for at least a week before i'll have time to dive in. ggrrrrrrrrr

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i can't breathe with that cover. i big-need this.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emma.
970 reviews956 followers
November 1, 2020
‘Proper witching is just a conversation with that red heartbeat, which only ever takes three things: the will to listen to it, the words to speak with it, and the way to let it into the world. The will, the words, and the way.

… everything important comes in threes.’


'Once upon a time there were three sisters…’ Three Eastwood sisters, to be precise. Agnes, Bella, and James Juniper. They live in a world where magic and power were female, once. Now it is all hushed words passed from mother to daughter, hidden workings and small tricks, all the better to stay beneath notice. For in this place, which is also our place, women are less than they were. They are made small by the power of men— and expected to stay that way. The year is 1893 and in New Salem the suffragists are rallying for the vote. But the ballot box isn’t the only path to change and a little witchery might be what’s needed to counter the arrival of a new danger, one cloaked in shadows and sickness. Juniper certainly thinks so. But these are sisters are riven by their past, too uncertain with each other in the present. To have a future, they’ll need mend the hurts that broke them, find a way to bring back what was forgotten, and forge something new… something wild and witchy.

This is one of those books that you manage to keep at an emotional distance for only the briefest time before falling head over heels. The opening pages bring a smile as you immediately recognise that Alix Harrow is as just good as you remembered. Or perhaps even better. You marvel again at the beauty and lyricism of her writing, at how quickly she can show you the essence of a character, at how she transforms old tales into new. And then all of that is forgotten as you become lost in the story of these women, become part of their struggles in a way that feels transformative. For this is a book about the power of women and of family. It is history and myth and magic woven together, a literary fairy tale threaded with real world issues. It is a story for our time and for all times.

In following the journey of these sisters, the wider notion of sisterhood in all its forms and possibilities is opened up before us. This is a novel of connection and acceptance and openness and inclusion; a book about women who are fed up, no… angry, at feeling desperate, or trapped, or fearful for themselves or their daughters. Here women must find in each other the way forward, as always it is together that we are strongest. It’s not as easy as that, of course. There are hurdles in the forming of a community, especially when those kept down and pushed out by systems of oppression are also taught to be afraid of each other, to believe in the kind of stereotypes and limitations of other groups and individuals they so reject about themselves. This is especially relevant when it comes to racial difference. In the novel, as today, black women are vulnerable to more hatred, more prejudice, more persecution, and more exclusion. The hesitant and carefully deepening relationship between the strong, but isolated black community, focused through one amazing character in particular, and other characters within the book (I can’t say too much here, it’s spoilery) is sensitively but powerfully done. It made my heart sing to see so much togetherness, no matter how slow or cautious the process has to be. Even as the parallels of discrimination and division fill you with rage and bitter recognition, so books like this offer you hope. It suggests, and not gently, that we must all sacrifice, men and women together, to make the world anew, to create something better for us all.

I have never read anything like this and I honestly love everything about it. Even though I read this advance copy on my kindle, I know that it’s a novel i’m going to have to have for my own, a physical copy on my bookshelves to reflect the story’s place in my heart. I already can’t wait to read it again.

It will hardly surprise you to hear that this is not only one of my books of the year, but of all time. It could not have come at a better moment and I urge you all to read it.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Juliet.
Author 76 books10.7k followers
February 13, 2021
Wow! Just finished reading this one, which was recommended by many writer friends. It's a novel like no other - a wondrous blend of alternative history, folklore and fairy tale, bound together by a theme of women's rights and women's empowerment. Unforgettable characters, rich and beautiful writing, a powerful story that will keep you reading late into the night. The word brilliant comes to mind. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
710 reviews11.3k followers
October 29, 2020
“Juniper holds up a hand. “You’re here because you want more for yourselves, better for your daughters. Because it’s easy to ignore a woman.” Juniper’s lips twist in a feral smile. “But a hell of a lot harder to ignore a witch.”

By all accounts this book was supposed to be perfect for me. A feminist gritty fantasy about witches and suffragettes, with plot not hinging on love stories but actual human rights causes, with fairytales inspiring plot points and evocative poetic language. Not to mention that I’ve become a fan of Alix Harrow this year, after a couple of short stories and a Hugo- and Nebula-nominated fantasy The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
(If you haven’t yet read anything by Alix Harrow, I suggest you take about 10 minutes out of your day and head over here to read her short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape”, one of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time.)

In an alternate 1893, witchcraft is officially stamped out. It used to be ubiquitous and mostly for women, but a few centuries prior St. George had burned Old Salem and its inhabitants to the ground and there is no room for witching in the strict and proper New Salem. There is also no room for women’s rights or suffrage - because everyone knows that women are always just a step away from all that evil witching and therefore need to firmly know their “proper” place and not put a toe out of line.
“Witching is a small, shameful thing, worked in kitchens and bedrooms and boarding houses, half-secret.”
But the memories of the times where there used to be witching and power still linger, and some spells are furtively handed down mother to daughter, quietly, secretly, furtively. The tensions simmer and boil, and threaten to blow the lid off this barely contained cauldron of lies and secrets and resentment and oppression.
“Seems to me they’re the same thing, more or less.”
“What are?”
Juniper’s eyes reflect the bronze shine of Saint George’s standing in the square. “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.” The kind I want, says the hungry shine of her eyes.”


And yet, despite me running at this book with open arms, screaming that I’m ready to love it unconditionally, something did not quite click. I couldn’t understand why for a while - there’s objectively nothing wrong with this story - until it hit me: it’s the characters. For the life of me I could not bring myself to care about the characters, despite enjoying the premise and the plot. Especially Juniper - the fiery teenager, a “vicious, vengeful girl“ who was supposed to be the passionate heart and the moral compass of this book - I fluctuated between wanting to put her into hypothetical counseling vs imaginary detention. I understood their plight and grievances and desires - and yet my cold cynical heart refused to *feel* it on the more visceral level.
“She understands that the Women’s Association wants one kind of power—the kind you can wear in public or argue in the courtroom or write on a slip of paper and drop in a ballot box—and that Juniper wants another. The kind that cuts, the kind with sharp teeth and talons, the kind that starts fires and dances merry around the blaze.
And she understands that if she intends to pursue it, she’ll have to do it on her own.”
————

But what made me keep reading despite not feeling much for the character was the strength with which Alix Harrow gets her messages through.

It’s the story of wanting - no, needing - things to be right. The need to assert yourself, make yourself heard, wield the power that the world wants to deny you because in its eyes you and the others like you are unworthy, less than full persons. It’s the story of sacrifice that comes with the fight, and the sacrifice that also comes if you choose to step back and not to fight.
“She begins to believe that the words and ways are whichever ones a woman has, and that a witch is merely a woman who needs more than she has.”

And it’s the story of sisterhood - not just biological but also of the found family, the bonds you forge through thick and thin with kindred souls (and a few men get to be a part of this sisterhood as well). It’s the story of anger and the story of love and healing old painful wounds.
“Agnes learned young that you have a family right up until you don’t. You take care of people right up until you can’t, until you have to choose between staying and surviving.”

After I finished it, I took a few days to figure out what I really thought of it. And in the end the good outweighed the bad. It is not the first book that I ultimately liked *despite* the characters (that’s my constant battle with Kim Stanley Robinson’s books where I love the worlds he creates and cannot muster more than just lukewarm feelings for the characters).

3.5 stars, and because GR requires rounding up or down, I’ll tentatively round up.
“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”
Profile Image for Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction).
442 reviews6,493 followers
October 19, 2020
*Rated 4.5/5 stars!

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an early copy of this book via NetGalley!

I knew I would enjoy this book, but I didn't predict just how much I would come to love it. When the suffragette movement inspires a witchy revolution in the town of New Salem, a whole host of characters are pulled into this web of words and will. Not only was it a story of witchcraft, but a story of sisterhood and wayward families. It was a story that proved how sheer willpower alone can make a person very, very powerful.


The thing that instantly pulled me in was the writing style. Alix E. Harrow's way with words is truly something worth reading. Her descriptions flow so smoothly despite being more picturesque than most, and with a hint of cleverness that proved fun to spot. Imagery would be woven between the three sisters, adapting slightly for each one's situation - for instance, the metaphor of despair as a black dog weaving around them all. The way their stories are inherently tied together, through thick and thin, made such imagery feel folkloric and gave it the exact ancient storyteller vibe it wanted.

The twists in folklore itself was a fun addition too, with famous fairytales retold and twisted to foreshadow the events of the book, or famous people genderbent but recognisable as fun easter eggs. The Brothers Grimm, for instance, became The Sisters Grimm and the basis to a lot of the witchcraft within the story. Children's rhymes became spells, and everything seemed at once both uncannily mundane but magical at the same time. It really was quite a feat to accomplish.

As was the natural incorporation of so many characters. While we have our three sisters leading the way, each one come across a circle of characters that all contribute something to the story. At first I did hesitate when it came to character building, believing the Eastwood sisters to be a tad closer to caricatures than characters due to their distinctly set personalities as "the wise one, the maternal one, and the outrageous one". But as the story progressed, their characters were built upon and adapted in ways that made me forget I ever questioned it. The same happened with all the side characters - they all felt purposeful, and like well-rounded characters with clear personalities and interests. I was impressed by the ability to not only keep track of them all but also make them seem relevant and necessary.

I honestly just loved so much about this book. A slow rise towards revolution, made with so many important acknowledgements about who's involved and the ebb and flow of change, this book showed so may variations behind the word "revolution". The thought of magic being this accessible too proved to be quite a comforting thought, only bolstered by the family dynamics and loyalty providing the very foundation of this book. While it has its darkness and shows the negative aspects of society along the way, it really is a book you can easily fall into, get behind the motivations, and cheer on the characters along the way. It left me with a contented feeling, and one that I'll remember for a good long while.

P.S. I do just want to mention too for anyone interested that there is disability rep (one of the main characters), LGBTQ+rep and PoC rep!

Profile Image for Fran (apologies...way behind).
618 reviews564 followers
July 3, 2020
"Magic is the distance between what a person has and what they need...the thing that fills the slim gap between the possible and impossible, that makes a way when there isn't one".
-Alix E. Harrow

"...proper witching...only ever takes three things: the will to listen to it, the words to speak with it, and the way to let it into the world. The will, the words, and the way". "Everything important comes in threes".

Home was 23 acres on the west side of the Big Sandy River in Crow County. "Home was her sisters, once. But they left and never came back". James Juniper Eastwood, the youngest Eastwood sister, was wild and feral. On the day of the spring equinox of 1893, she jumped off a train 200 miles from home "with nothing but loose change and witch-ways in her pockets and no place to go". Her likeness was splashed on a train station poster. "Miss James Juniper Eastwood. Seventeen Years of Age, wanted for Murder and Suspected Witchcraft". Mama Mags (her grandma who raised her) said, "that temper will get you burnt at the damn stake...a wise woman keeps her burning on the inside". Juniper is angry "...mama died to soon...daddy did not die soon enough...". Her sisters left her and she's mad at herself for missing them. She feels compelled to attend the New Salem Women's Association Rally at St. George's Square...an urgent voice speaks. "Why should women wait in the shadows while their fathers and husbands determine our fate?"

Agnes Amaranth Eastwood, the middle sister, was strong and unflinchingly steady. She worked as a mill girl, cotton dust coating her tongue. She kept to herself. Mama Mags told her, "every woman draws a circle around herself. Sometimes she has to be the only thing inside it". Arriving at St. George's Square, she hears Suffragist Miss Cady Stone speak of women's rights. Women have been chattel in a man's world. A rally is under way to empower women by fighting for the right to vote.

Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood, quietly worked as a librarian at New Salem College. Beatrice, the oldest sister, understood the "weight of words...her black notebook, her most prized possession was "half-filled with witch-tales and nursery rhymes...stories she'll never tell and spells she'll never work...[looking] at the words, she can almost feel her sisters' hands in hers again". Leaving work, she is "following the witch wind to the middle of the square"...some sort of rally...a circling chant.

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

On the eve of the spring equinox of 1893, the three Eastwood sisters were drawn toward the square and pulled into a spell after seven years apart. What did they see? "A sudden wind. Stars. A Tower. A doorway with certain words inscribed in it...an interlocking circle of three". "Witching and woman's rights... Suffrage and spells...they're both a kind of power. The kind we aren't allowed to have". Juniper said, "I saw...shadows moving in ways they shouldn't, twisting together. It was witching, but darker and stranger than anything Mags ever did". The Eastwood sisters needed three components in order to use magic and mayhem to upset a male dominated world. The will, the words, and the way. They had the will. "Are there words and ways waiting among children's verses...power passed in secret from mother to daughter, like swords disguised as sewing needles?"

A diverse cast of women, women from all walks of life...the mainly upper class Suffragette ladies...the Daughters of Tituba, a Black sisterhood of witches...familiars...and an occasional male supporter, will meet secretly and work for a better, more tolerant tomorrow. "We could win it all, stop worrying so much about what a woman should or should not do, what's respectable and what isn't. We must stand and fight, all of us together. 'All for one, and one for all'." This reviewer has merely touched upon the wonderment of reading "The Once and Future Witches" by Alix E. Harrow. This work of historical fiction is a masterpiece to behold!

Thank you Redhook Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Hamad.
970 reviews1,283 followers
October 22, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“It’s a risk just to be a woman, in my experience. No matter how healthy or hardworking she is.”


I loved this more than The Ten Thousand Doors of January and I think this may a bit unpopular when this book comes out. But a story about 3 witches who tend to be sisters, which is full of nursery rhymes and is a feminist story in essence! How could I not love that! Thanks for the publisher for providing me with a physical copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.

The story takes place in the year 1893 and it starts as a story about women movement and their right to vote. I think you know how in that time men were controlling everything and women were just supposed to stay at home and serve their husbands. But the story develops from there and introduces us to the Eastwood sisters and facing a trouble that is looming over the whole city!

Harrow’s writing is magical, flowery and atmospheric. I actually preferred the writing in this book over her debut because it felt less dense and easier to go through. I just love stories and nursery rhymes because that’s where my love of reading bloomed and this book made me so nostalgic! I don’t know who formatted the book but I know they did a very good job at that! I loved how stories we all know were included in the story like the story of Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin and may other stories. The use of nursery rhymes as magic spells was something I enjoyed very much too and putting those at the start of each chapter made me just so excited and looking forward to the next one!

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral
And four for birth
Five for life
Six for death
Seven to find a merry wife


I love characters with focus on more than one character although I know how challenging and risky they are to write. Fortunately, Harrow took the risk and aced this! I just love stories about families and sisters. There was also another something I liked in the writing where a chapter started with a sentence and then when we jumped to the next sister we would have the same sentence with changes fitting that sister. The story starts with introducing the sisters in the present time with a shaky relationship and they are separated and then we move a bit with the story until they meet again early in the story and then we start to understand what happened to them in the past. I loved how the three sisters were different from each other and yet cared for each other as much as expected from family members and I liked their platonic relationship. We had secondary characters who were well written as well and we have cute romance in the story featuring an LGBT relation.

The world-building is cool, I like stories about witches and I loved how the magic was done as mentioned above and in the synopsis (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 I need to criticize one thing it is that the story did not feel so 1893 to me, from the way people talked to how their lives were described, it actually felt more modern to me!

“Fate is a story people tell themselves so they can believe everything happens for a reason, that the whole awful world is fitted together like some perfect machine, with blood for oil and bones for brass. That every child locked in her cellar or girl chained to her loom is in her right and proper place”


Summary: This is a feminist story that mixes all kind of elements I like from witches to nursery rhymes to short stories. The writing, world-building and plot were all well done and although the pacing was slow sometimes, I was not bored at all! Give this a chance if you want something atmospheric and nostalgic!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Marzuqa.
63 reviews55 followers
January 12, 2021
3.5* Honestly, this started off so well! I was riveted for the first half of the book and was transported to a fairytale world. The poetic writing and magical world building was entrancing. I also loved the short fairy tales sprinkled through the novel.
I was loving it until it began to get a little tedious due to the extended prose and a lot of unwanted information. Towards the second half, I really had to try to stay focused on what was happening. Almost 30% of this book is superfluous in my opinion.
But it wasn’t a bad read overall. No regrets for picking this up, was surely worth a go.
Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,248 followers
November 29, 2020
Now a Goodreads Choice finalist in Fantasy!

You had me at suffragist witches. And after the brilliance that was Ten Thousand Doors of January, there was no way I wasn’t going to pick up Alix Harrow’s sophomore novel. I’ll bring the hemlock if you bring the thistleseed, ladies!!



Taking place at the tail end of the 19th century, we meet the Eastwood sisters: Beatrice, Agnes and James (or Belladonna, Amaranth and Juniper, if you prefer). After years separated, they find themselves drawn towards one another, despite some of their best efforts otherwise. Underneath the surface of the town of New Salem, women are organizing to obtain the right to vote, but there’s also something more nefarious at play. Even the shadows seem to have eyes, and it’s difficult to rally support when the town seems to be in an escalating state of fear.

“That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.”

I loved Harrow’s use of magic in this book. She’s able to incorporate domestic necessities without reducing ‘women’s magic’ to the patriarchal ideas of ‘women’s work’. Yes, women & witches can mend a tear in your blouse, but they can also lead a revolution. Once and Future Witches uses alternating perspectives of the three Eastwood sisters. Their personalities are not only distinct from one another, but they also differ in the ‘type’ of woman each represents. Namely, the mother, the maiden and the crone (this one in particular makes me wince because she’s supposedly in her 20s????).

The memories of the previous witch trials in Old Salem hasn’t faded from the town’s collective memory, and there appears to be an enemy who will do anything to smoke out those responsible for trying to bring the magic back. I really enjoyed this story conceptually, but my one criticism is that it just seems unnecessarily long. I’m not asking for a YA pacing—I fully understand that this, like January is an adult novel. But I felt like parts of the story dragged when they shouldn’t have. There’s too much good stuff here for me to be counting the number of pages I have left!

Additionally I liked the inclusion of those who the women’s movement has historically left behind. This includes black women, poor women, sex workers and people in the LGBTQ+ community. The established organizations for women’s suffrage were almost entirely rich, white women and the author made clear that it was that way by design. Instead of accepting these prejudices, the women turned away created their own spaces to fight for their interests, both in the book and in real life.

In total, though, congrats to Ms. Harrow for a successful follow-up! The story is unique and compelling with a lot of elements I could not have seen coming. Historical fantasy is always going to be a favorite sub-genre of mine and I love the way this author transports you with her writing. Always looking forward to whatever she’s putting out next!

*Thanks to Redhook/Orbit Books & Netgalley for an advance copy!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,109 reviews1,975 followers
December 22, 2020
I was not sure whether the author could bring us another book as good as The Ten Thousand Doors of January but she does. The Once and Future Witches is quite different but just as totally captivating and beautifully written.

It is 1893 and the city of Salem no longer exists having been burned to the ground with the witches who lived there. New Salem is a city where not a hint of witchery is allowed yet this is where the three Eastwood sisters, James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth and Beatrice Belladonna find themselves together again after seven years. Suddenly women's magic and women's rights become tangled up together and from then on the action never stops.

Harrow writes beautiful characters whether they are good or evil. The three sisters are each very different but their bond is special and carries the whole book. There are also some wonderful relationships especially Bella and Cleo and Agnes and August. In fact the book gives the reader so much to think about I cannot do it justice in just a review. Best thing would be if you have not read it you do so and discover the magic yourself.

I am very reluctant to take this book back to the library but there are 16 people waiting for it. I will just have to buy myself a copy. Like the author's first book it is a keeper.
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 49 books9,920 followers
Read
March 3, 2022
Source of book: NetGalley (thank you)
Relevant disclaimers: We are twitter moots! (sorry I should have had put this in earlier!).
Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author.

I feel bad for this book because it has been sitting on my NG shelf for, um, five months? And, the thing is, I’m normally super disciplined: I read from the bottom to the top, except to switch genres (since it can be unfair to read a book from the same genre you just read if the previous book was super good or super bad). But I knew this was long, likely to be a bit dense, and taking on some complicated stuff besides. I mean, the elevator pitch is “witching and women’s rights” but it’s so much more than that. In any case, I kept waiting for the world to feel a little safer in terms … well, not just the pandemic, but human rights in general? You, see, The Once and Future Witches is set in a sort of altish-history America, where once magic was real and powerful, but has been mostly burned away with the witches. The thing is, though, for all there’s a layer of “the magic was really real” here, the actual history of the world is very much our history: plagues, social inequality (along axes of gender, race, sexuality), exploitation of the working class, corrupt judicial systems, church and state mandated institutions of social control, and y’know, all that murdering women we did in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Anyway, flash forward five months, there’s now literally a war in Europe and I came to the conclusion the world isn’t going to get any better, so I’d might as well read the damn book. And, honestly, I did struggle a bit, not because of the book, but because of everything else: basically I recognise this is excellent, and there are deep feelings roiling away in my heart about it but I JUST CAN’T AFFORD TO HAVE ANY FEELINGS RIGHT NOW.

All of which said, it is not actually the worst book you could possibly read in the midst of generalised existential despair: it’s a dark journey, and a rough one, but it is ultimately a story of unity over loneliness, love over hate, hope over fear, of finding a way when no ways seem possible.

The deal is this: three sisters, raised in rural nowhereville, their mother dead, their father abusive, separated during their childhood following a significant fire on their farm. The details of this come out later and are resolved, but at the beginning of the novel the sisters are splintered, hurt, lonely, convinced of the necessity of that loneliness, and equally convinced that they have both betrayed their sisters and been betrayed by them. Despite everything else that happens in this book—and the characters feel simultaneously vulnerable and strong, so there’s an air of permanent threat from the opening chapter which I found quite hard to take—this was the emotional thread that caused me the most trauma. Trauma, I hasten to add, because it’s well done, not because it’s overwrought or gratuitously suffering-centric. But there’s something really painfully real about the fact that the sisters, all too aware what a terrible person their father is, still ultimately find it easier believe in each other’s betrayal than in their love. It’s a subtle way of exploring their father’s abuse—the way the impact of abuse extends far beyond abuser and victim—without focusing too heavily on him or making him too much a part of their story. But it does make the early sections of the book, where the sisters feel so very damaged and so very lost, hard to read, especially because all that’s really standing between them and reconcile is one honest conversation. A conversation, I’m glad to say, that does take place by the mid-point of the story, after which the book gets a lot less emotionally claustrophobic (although the general air of menace remains).

The plot kicks off when, in the last decade of the 19th century, fate … or a spell … or something draws the three sisters, Bella the bookish one, Agnes the, um, one who happens to pregnant, and Juniper the wild one, to New Salem (the old Salem having been burned down with the witches inside it). Bella chants a spell that causes the Tower of Avalon—supposedly the stronghold of the three last witches—to briefly appear in the town square. What follows is complicated to explain. On the most basic level, I guess, you could say it’s about how the sisters, along with various marginalised communities of New Salem (including workers unions and the suffragist movement) use witchcraft to challenge the established hierarchy of their society, as represented by Gideon Hill, an ambitious city councillor with his eye on the mayorship. But, honestly, that barely scratches the surface: you’ve at least two love stories here (one queer, one straight), you’ve got themes of motherhood and family and found family, you’ve got recovery from trauma, on both the personal and the social level, you’ve explorations of power, powerlessness, and abuse, especially in the context of marginalised identity, all artfully woven with folklore, nursery rhymes, fairy tales (and a sprinkling of Arthuriana).

As you can probably tell from the description, this is a story with a specifically feminist … I hesitate to use the word agenda because that sounds negative, as if a piece of art having a point of view was somehow a bad thing, so I guess I’ll go with sensibility? But I’ll also say that, to me (insert sixty-five paragraphs of me checking my privilege and acknowledging my lack of standing to make assertive statements on the subject) it was of the most inclusive flavour: I think what gets lost in our increasingly bifurcated social justice discourse is, often, all rights are human rights. By empowering those who are marginalised—even if they are marginalised along different axes to us—we empower society as a whole: while the book does focus heavily on the sisters, and the position of women within their society as a whole, it’s equally interested in intersectionalities of class, race, sexuality and gender. All of which is to say, while both the main antagonists of the book are men (if we count the sister’s deceased father as an antagonist, which I think we should), not every bloke is evil. I’m not necessarily saying it would be a problem per se if they were (I’m not here to tell women how they can and can’t portray men) but it’s an approach that reinforces the idea that freedom and equality are, and should be, universal concerns, not merely fringe issues restricted to the affected group.

Another element of the book I personally found was handled with a lot of care was the witchcraft itself because I think it’s very easy for … how can I say this … women-centric depictions of magic, particular witch-themed magic, to go to some, at best, essentialist and at worst TERF-y places. Something The Once And Future Witches makes super clear—and while it’s not dwelled upon, I actually found this an incredibly interesting element of the setting—is that magic is not inherently gendered. It is socially gendered. As the book continues, it becomes very clear that there’s no such thing as “women’s” magic or, indeed, “men’s magic.” That anyone, cis or trans, can perform any type of magic. It was simply that witchcraft was explicitly associated with women and forced into a domestic sphere that encouraged people to view it as trivial, as a way of marginalising and devaluing it. This is partially why it survives as tales and rhymes, passed down through family lines (usually from mother to daughter). For me, I found this an incredibly successful allegory for the way marginalised experiences and areas of influence become culturally diminished. Our history reduced to fragments and turned into stories.

Big themes aside, the writing is *chef’s kiss*: it’s quite artful, I will admit, because it’s got that edge of fairy tale to it, but Juniper’s more matter-of-fact perspective provides just enough texture to stop the self-consciously stylistic prose becoming wearing. The characterisation is similarly deft, despite the breadth of the cast and the complexity of relationships between the various characters: the trio of sisters, in particular, are their own little interpersonal web, as they each has a specific relationship with the other two, as well as relationship to the … sibling unit, if that makes sense. I also really enjoyed Bella’s relationship with Cleo Quinn, a dashing reporter (who is also a member of a group of Black witches called the Daughters of Tituba—who have what felt to me like a realistically complicated relationship with the white suffragist movement) and Agnes’s slightly more tentative love affair with August Lee, an agitator for worker’s rights. It was really intriguing to me to have two thematically resonant relationships, one straight and one queer, developing … not quite side-by-side but close enough to reflecting upon each other in fascinating ways. For Agnes, healthy heterosexuality involves learning to trust she can be loved without having to surrender her power, for Bella, healthy homosexuality is simply learning to love without shame. And as if this wasn’t an embarrassment of riches, there’s also a … complicated, though definitely not romantic dynamic, between Juniper and Gideon Hill that adds an extra layer of nuance to someone who could very easily become a one-note antagonist, or bland representation of the patriarchy. I mean, he is very much a representation of the patriarchy but in an interesting way: dangerous, entitled and desperate, yes, but almost (keyword almost) as damaged by his own toxicity by the people he has destroyed.

The only slightly off note for me—and please be aware that this is personal and once again I have no authority or standing here—was Jennie Lind, a transgender witch who we later learn is the daughter of the former Mayor. For me, she was treated respectfully by the narrative and her fellow witches (bit depressing, isn’t it, that fictional 19th century suffragists are more accepting than certain elements of modern feminism) and while there’s several hints about her identity (her mother’s name—the middle name that all women have—is Gemini, she performs a spell that Juniper notes is ‘boys magic’, and when the women are arrested she is separated from the group, only to reappear later having, apparently, been sent to a different workhouse) I liked the fact that the text didn’t find it necessary to make those hints more explicit or directly out her. She even gets a love affair of her own, albeit one that is barely on page, with a fellow suffragist witch called Inez. I think where the wheels came off for me was the final scene between Juniper and Jennie where Jennie explains who she is to Juniper. I mean, the exchange made emotional sense because Juniper and Jennie are friends, but it felt almost … narratively redundant to me. Like it was there for the reader, more than anything, in case we hadn’t noticed the trans woman was trans—but that begs the question, why did matter if we noticed? It also ended up making the climax of Jennie’s story talking to Juniper about her transness … which, I don’t know. Made her feel less like a person and more like an issue of the week. Plus there’s this line from Juniper when she thinks of Jennie working “shoulder-to-shoulder with sisters she couldn’t quite trust with her secret.” Again, this troubled me slightly because it seems to imply that trans self-acceptance is contingent upon cis acceptance? That if it’s not disclosed, then it’s a secret, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case? Like, I don’t think not disclosing your identity is the same as withholding it, if that makes sense.

But who knows. I’m picking at nits here. Ultimately, this is a rich, complicated and fascinating book that somehow manages—like many of its characters—to be both very angry and very hopeful at the same time. It is, however, also a really intense book. So, do check the triggers before you pick it up and maybe don’t read it immediately after a war kicked off?
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
Shelved as 'on-hiatus'
May 21, 2020
GUESS WHAT JUST SHOWED UP ON MY DOORSTEP.

description

I literally gasped with delight. I loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January and I am so looking forward to reading Alix Harrow's next book! It comes out in October so getting it now is unbelievably cool.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,715 reviews1,224 followers
December 26, 2020
Twee cottagecore that thinks it's gritty feminism. Contains: overwritten prose which confuses nonsensical metaphors with striking writing; shallow and unconvincing characterisations for even the main characters; world-building that spends more time on the flourishes than it does on the foundations.

The cover's nice, though.
Profile Image for Jen.
84 reviews254 followers
December 3, 2020
“One witch you can laugh at. Three you can burn. But what do you do with a hundred?”

This was a 4.5 ⭐ for me. I loved how Alix Harrow created a historical witch tale with a modern update yet at the same time left it feeling comfortably familiar. To clarify the genre, this is historical fiction about witches that doesn't draw parallels to Satan and demons. It takes place in 1893 when witching has been eradicated and focuses on three estranged sisters who accidentally or perhaps by fate, come together in New Salem to find information about the lost witching world at a time when it is desperately needed.

One of my pet peeves in a novel is good vs bad and I loved that in this book, Harrow allowed us to see all of the faces in play within a person, then showed whether good or bad choices seemed to be more prevalent, forming their path. At the same time, I loved that she didn't do "all witches good" and showed that there will always be people who use their powers for bad instead of to help. She also really explored the themes of how events in your life can shorten your vision and scope and motivate people to head down a darker path.

There was so much that I loved about this read including,
- it attempted to be inclusive without sensationalizing
- it highlighted the power in numbers to make a change in the world!! Hello.. relevant!
- it didn't draw a line that men are evil and women aren't
- using tropes yet showing the characters fighting their characterizations (ie - the mother, the maiden and the crone)
- the story was relevant to life now and if you take the magic out, you see we can do better at fighting oppression!
- being one of three sisters myself, loved that the sisters were individuals and struggled at times to work together and often had different passions and priorities

My personal favourite thing was the way she used nursery rhymes and the 'sisters Grimm' to tell witching stories and spells. Loved this concept and enjoyed how she showed her version of the stories where the witch wasn't always so bad.

She modernized things with a blend of men and women practicing each other's magic. One of my favourite things was that she incorporated all nationalities, showing magic in all of their cultures, not something usually seen in magic themed novels. She used themes of LGBTQ and race with what I felt was honesty, not exploitation.

Could have been a 5 but felt at some points it was long and dragged a bit and also didn't feel it needed the Epilogue, in addition, I listened to the audiobook and wished I had read the book as didn't always care for the voices that Gabra Zackman picked for the characters and really didn't like the incorporation of music into the start of chapters (especially since I listen on an accelerated speed)

All in all, if this is your niche, one to read for sure, I ++ recommend you see if we need witches in the future🧹✨💫
Profile Image for Raquel Flockhart.
421 reviews309 followers
September 28, 2021
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“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.”

The Once and Future Witches is Alix E. Harrow’s sophomore novel, a tale of witches and sisterhood, a tale of women’s rights and magic. I had high hopes regarding this book even though I haven’t read yet the author’s debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I hoped to enjoy it, but I didn’t expect to completely fall head over heels in love with the story as much as I did. You can bet I will be reading every single book Alix E. Harrow writes from now on.

Once upon a time, there used to be witches whose spells relied on rhymes and herbs. Words passed from grandmothers to mothers, from mothers to daughters. Words nearly forgotten now, hushed whispers secretly woven in clothes and shared in rumpled notes. The Eastwood sisters, once inseparable, know some of those words. They have grown up between fairy tales they used to tell each other to forget about their reality, the cruel world where they lost their mother and were left under the wing of their abusive father. But as the rest of the women, they are forgetting the ways of witchery and they are not expected to fight back in a world where men have the power.

“As a man of God I disapprove, but as a mere man well… I wonder sometimes where the first witch came from. If perhaps Adam deserved Eve’s curse.” His smile twists. “If behind every witch is a woman wronged.”

The Once and Future Witches is an alternate history fantasy story set in New Salem in 1893 following the Eastwood sisters: James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth and Beatrice Belladona. The Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. June is the youngest, a seventeen-year-old with a leg impairment who arrives at New Salem after murdering her father and who soon decides to join a suffragist association. Agnes is the middle sister, she works in a cotton mill after running away from her past and has recently discovered that she is pregnant. Bella is the oldest, a lesbian junior associate librarian at the Salem College Library. The three sisters haven’t seen each other for seven years. That’s it, until they are drawn to the New Salem Women’s Association rally, where a dark and ancient tower with the sign of the Last Three Witches of the West appears out of nowhere.

First of all, Harrow has one of the most beautiful writings I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. It’s so lush, whimsical and lyrical. A couple of pages into this book, I already knew I was going to love it because of the writing style. I honestly think Harrow has a special power with words and I ended up highlighting innumerable sentences. Also, I very much enjoyed how she included fairy tales between some chapters and how Bella keeps her most personal thoughts safely looked inside parenthesis.

“In stories, things come in threes: riddles and chances, wrongs and wishes. Juniper figures that day in the barn was the first great wrong in their story.”

Witchery and suffrage are intertwined in this novel. June is the first of the Eastwood sisters to take a step forward in order to fight for women’s rights. She soon joins the New Salem Women’s Association, which serves as representation of the first suffragist movements: snobbish and racist. The New Salem Women’s Association fights for the right to vote but they only accept white women and from an upper social class. I loved how this leads the main characters to found an inclusive space for all the women, no matter their race, social status or sexual orientation. A witchy association that receives a generous donation from Pankhurst—I personally loved the reference of the famous suffragette.

Moreover, The Once and Future Witches deals with so many important themes such as violence against women, sexual harassment, race privilege, motherhood, class privilege, transphobia, labour exploitation, homophobia and gender pay gap. I really liked how the author included social criticism in the novel taking into account the situation at the end of the nineteenth century even though this is an alternative history fantasy story. What I mean with the latter is that Harrow took some liberties in terms of the gender of the most famous folklorists, so in this alternative version of our world they were the Sisters Grimm, Charlotte Perrault and Andrea Lang. I personally loved this gender swap.

“Their teachers were desperate need and decades of rage; the hoarded words of their mothers and grandmothers; one another.”

This is a book about sisterhood, about the continuous oppression women suffered through history and that focuses on how minorities are always the most vulnerable, especially black and queer women. The folklore, the witchery, the family bond and the social criticism are pieces of the big puzzle that composes this book. But this is also a book about finding yourself and choosing your own family. Besides, there is a beautiful sapphic romance in this book that took my breath away.

Overall, The Once and Future Witches is such a beautiful feminist fairy tale. I loved the different personalities of the Eastwood sisters, the witchery plot, the social criticism, the beautiful prose and the importance folklore plays in the story. Speaking of the latter, I absolutely loved how certain fairy tale collected by the Brothers—well, Sisters—Grimm ends up having a role by the end of the book. The only reason this isn’t a 5-star read for me is because of a couple of details regarding the last fight and the villain, and also because I felt kind of indifferent about Agnes’ romance. But Alix E. Harrow has definitely become an auto-buy author for me and I’m really looking forward to reading her debut novel and her future works. Hopefully, one of those could be about The Daughters of Tituba, right?

“Surely trust is never truly broken, but merely lost.” Beatrice’s lips twist. “And what is lost, that can’t be found?”


P.S.: I'm not English, so if you see any mistakes let me know so I can correct them, please.

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Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books426 followers
Read
February 6, 2022
“One witch you can laugh at. Three you can burn. But what do you do with a hundred?”

So What’s It About?

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.


What I Thought

To be perfectly and entirely honest with you at the start of this review I’m just going to disclose that I spent large portions of this book tearing up and whispering “Yes! Yes!” to myself. Women finding their power and resilience in the bonds that they share, from sisterhood to friendship to romantic love? Women refusing to tolerate their oppression any longer, refusing to settle for the crumbs that they’ve been given all this time?? Deciding that their suffering is enough???? Fighting like hell through thick and thin to make a change??? Reclaiming the knowledge and freedom and ways of being that have been stripped away from them for generations??????? Yes! Yes!

It’s virtually Charlotte Catnip, and you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you how much I loved this book. I loved the actual magic itself, with the rhymes and odd little items and herbs; the will, the way and the words. I loved the book’s gorgeous, lush atmosphere and (as I mentioned in The Year of the Witching) the sheer witchiness of it all. I loved how witching survived through devalued forms of traditionally female knowledge: children’s rhymes, sewing, recipes, fairy tales. I loved the sisters’ meeting with the original Maiden, Mother and Crone and the ending itself could not have been more perfect and beautiful, from Juniper’s fate to their quest to spread magic while fighting oppression and re-gathering all the magic that has been lost.

I loved the way that the sisters overcame their father’s abuse, and how their trauma affected each one differently: there was Juniper’s rage and recklessness, Bella’s self-effacement, anxiety and fear and Agnes’s withdrawal, avoidance and belief that connection gets you hurt. The way that his abuse divided them from each other and turned them against each other also demonstrates the way that female subjugation often does the same thing on a societal level. I loved seeing them rebuild their relationships and come to trust each other once again.

I loved Harrow’s understanding of early feminism and the limits of its respectability politics – ultimately the Eastwood sisters decide that you won’t get too far in getting what you want in following the rules that have been set for you by your oppressor, and I’m right there with them. The other side of those respectability politics also means the exclusion of women who by their very identity are deemed disrespectable, like women of color and sex workers, and Harrow is very clear about that too.

The book is determined to make it clear that there is no one monolith of Women’s Magic – rather, different cultures have all different kinds of methods and traditions. It’s also important to note that the book speaks meaningfully to the role of magic in fighting slavery and the double burden that black women bear by virtue of their identity, while the same is also true of queer women.

I will say that for all the things I loved about this book there are others that I didn’t love so much. For one thing, I still can’t make up my mind about Harrow’s prose. Sometimes I think it’s lovely and sometimes I feel like it feels too manufactured and deliberately precious to be truly skillful, if that makes sense. At other times it just felt a bit melodramatic.

I’d also say that each sister’s characterization is very clear and precise, almost to the point where I felt like it worked to the detriment of organic characterization. Each sister has a very clear lesson to learn: Bella to be brave, Agnes to let others in and Juniper to live for something other than hate. I feel almost as though I got to know Harrow’s lesson for each sister more than I got to know each sister as a complex individual. This is definitely less true of Juniper than the other two- she was funny and gritty when she wasn’t absolutely derangedly reckless- but I’m afraid that I found Agnes and Bella to be rather boring.

I would have loved to see more moments of them learning to love and trust each other again because I truly cherished those scenes when they happen. I also think Harrow chose kind of bizarre moments for a couple of the huge emotional beats in their relationship because one happens while Juniper is bleeding out and the other happens while Agnes is in the middle of labor.

I also complained about the romance in The Ten Thousand Doors of January and, by God, I’ll do it again here. Unfortunately I’m starting to think that I just don’t jive too well with the way that Harrow writes romance. I really liked Quinn as an individual character and August was pretty okay but I never really understood why romances developed between them and Agnes and Bella or cared about those subplots. And, finally, while I loved the idea of the little fairy tale snippets the actual little stories themselves were fairly disappointing and at the ending of each one I was left thinking “Oh, that’s it?”

Ahhhhh. I’m just getting choked up thinking about this book again. I loved it so much!!!!! It’s going to be a new Spookening favorite and truly, truly cannot wait to see what Alix Harrow writes next. :)
Profile Image for Megan.
224 reviews4,054 followers
November 15, 2021
OMG. OMG. I’m sorry but words don’t even exist to begin to describe this book. I CAAAAANT! So beautiful, lyrical, touching and heartbreaking. A new fave!
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
418 reviews452 followers
July 31, 2020
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 it’s 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 has the words and the ways to make her worthy of being called a 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.

🧹Highly recommended🧹

Official release date:
October 15th, 2020 (UK)
• 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.


• You can find this review and more at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Cas.
26 reviews21 followers
October 31, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a with an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

DNF at 68%

I'd like to preface this review by admitting that I really tried to like this book. The only reason I didn't finish it was because it was actively making me uncomfortable and becoming a detriment to my mental health. My purpose of this review is not to bash the book, however, I think it's important to speak honestly on some glaring issues I had with it. I'm not going to tell anyone not to read it and if you enjoyed this book, I'm sincerely happy for you.

Firstly, I appreciated how the three sisters had distinct, if one-dimensional, personalities and complex feelings for each other. In the beginning, the sisters are estranged and have not been in contact with each other for some years. I enjoyed this complexity and the mixed feelings they had for each other. They have a lot of unresolved conflict and it is not immediately worked out once they meet again. However, I felt the characters were underdeveloped and I struggled to connect with them. All three of them felt more like caricatures rather than people and they all had this "not like other girls" vibe.

Another thing I enjoyed in this book is the magic. I enjoyed how the author took popular nursery rhymes, songs, and fairytales and made them the foundation of the magic system. However, I really disliked the emphasis on gender in the magic system. In the world, witchcraft is seen as women's magic and there is a separate men's magic. While the characters do make use of men's magic at some point in the story, it is seen as more of a "women can do anything men can" moment rather than "gender is a literally a social construct."

//slight spoilers//
As a non-binary person of colour, this book just reeked of white feminism. James Juniper is very much a "not like other girls" character, Agnes reminds me of a typical liberal white woman, and while Beatrice is the most "progressive" character —she is in love with a black woman and occasionally ruminates on the absurdity and inconvience that is racism— she is as interesting as cardboard. There is also a scene later in the book wherein Bella's love interest, Quinn, must sit in the front of the stagecoach with the driver because of, and I quote, "the absurdity of Jim Crow," and then Bella continues to talk about how she feels about the inconvenience that is racism. Bella is slightly aware of the racism that Quinn faces, however, she never actively does anything about it. There is a scene in which Quinn is about to become a victim of a hate crime and the book just glosses over it. To set a book during the suffragette movement without addressing the blatant racism and transphobia that is prevalent among prominent suffragists, is to ignore the glaring elephant in the room. The racism that exists within the suffragist movement is addressed in a single measly sentence. Genderqueer people also do not exist in this book, which I expected, however, the magic system in this book places an unneeded emphasis on gender, with their being a "women's magic" and a separate "men's magic." There are many missed opportunities in the book where the author could have challenged the gender binary, but ultimately those scenes are used simply as a "women can do whatever men can."
It is also interesting to note that later on in the story, the three main characters start their own association due to their frustration with suffragists reluctance of magic. This also would have been a good opportunity to create something more inclusive, however, it eventually becomes a mirror image of the suffragist movement with a little magic thrown in. The characters do make an effort to invite some black people, yet the prominent figure within their community, conveniently declines and therefore they are left with an all white association. Not only is this a convenient way to ignore the glaring flaws in their version of feminism, it also makes the assumption that no other people of colour exist. Ultimately, this book is a good reflection of my problems with most "feminist" books written by white women. I simply have no empathy for the woes of white women, particularly when their version of feminism is achieving the same privileges afforded to white men.

TW // Child abuse, both physical and psychological; parental death; arrest and imprisonment; mind control; pregnancy and childbirth, including forced hospitalization; racism (not challenged); sexism; homophobia, both external and internalized; threat of sexual assault, averted; torture (mostly off-the-page, but alluded to); execution (attempted); child abandonment; major character death.
Profile Image for Book Barbarian  (Tammy Smith).
306 reviews68 followers
November 4, 2020
eARC provided by NetGalley , thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK. All opinions are my own

I feel so disappointed.....with myself?...... but I found this book to be very, very boring. I don’t think this book was for me but with all the other rave reviews, it might be for you so don’t write it off just yet but I find it fascinating how we can all have such a different reading experience.

Sorry first and foremost for the unpopular opinion, many, many people have found this book to be amazing but sadly it just fell really flat in a lot of ways.

It started off wonderfully; I mean who doesn’t love a witchy book! A stunning cover, title and synopsis really caught my eye.

At first I was really interested in the Eastwood sisters and what happened to them but soon, each and every character fell totally and completely flat and empty to me, I could not form an attachment to either of them no matter how hard I tried. At 6% in, I already felt devoid of interest and I knew this book just wasn’t working for me.

There was also an overload of characters and a pretty straight forward, uninteresting plot which might have let me down since I am used to more action and intrigue. The pacing was just really off and there is a lot of info-dumping that I found very unnecessary. The most intriguing parts (to me at least) had very little page time and the more I read the more bored and disinterested I got.
The concept and the writing are absolutely stunning. Even the tone and voices used, but sadly, this was too slow-paced for me in every way.

I am still adding The Ten Thousand Doors of January to my reading list, I do really hope I will enjoy it better but I just found this very boring and nothing kept my attention.

I think this will appeal to a certain audience so I do suggest you give it a try.

Rating 2

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
Standalone
Publish Date: October 15th 2020
Cover Rating: 8/10
Adult - Historical Fiction – Witches - Magic
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
773 reviews552 followers
July 24, 2021
2.5★

If I was going to use one word to described this book, it would be "bloated."

For others, another word could be "over-hyped", but this book couldn't be over-hyped for me. I have read (& loved) some of Ms Harrow's short stories - in particular the magical A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies which I read here This story completely enchanted me & I was excited to read Harrow in a longer format.

Unfortunately The Once and Future Witches underwhelmed me.

I do freely admit I normally prefer shorter works of fiction, so this book was always going to be a hard sell. But even allowing for this, this book needed a really good pruning - it was at least 100 pages too long. Ms Harrow is the mistress of creating really beautifully descriptive prose, but this didn't always drive the story forward. My attention did wander. A lot.

The other problem for me was how profoundly unlikeable the three Eastwood Sisters/Witches were in the first half of the book - & they didn't improve that much in the second. Fortunately at around the 40% mark (just as I was about to DNF) the plot did improve and for a time I was really engaged by roughly the middle third of the book. By the end I was losing interest again, although the twist about was a deft touch - I was taken completely by surprise!

I am no longer in a hurry to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January but I will certainly read more of Ms Harrow's short stories. It is too early in Ms Harrow's career to say that she should stick to that format.



https://wordpress.com/view/carolshess...
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
549 reviews3,753 followers
February 3, 2022
Con esta autora me pasa algo raro, me fascinan sus relatos cortos pero no acabo de conectar con sus novelas largas.
«Las brujas del ayer y del mañana» me ha gustado bastante más que «Las diez mil puertas de Enero», y aún así durante toda la lectura sentí que no estaba disfrutando tanto de la historia como debería e incluso a veces desesperándome.
Y es que lo tiene todo para gustarme: ese juego con las brujas y los cuentos clásicos, la ambientación en Nueva Salem con las sufragistas de por medio y el empoderamiento femenino, los guiños a esa realidad alternativa, ¡la magia! ¡La torre!... y entonces, ¿Por qué no le estoy dando a este libro 5 estrellas? Pues no sé, pero el estilo de Harrow en este libro me resultó muy frío, su historia poco sutil y sus personajes previsibles. Creo que desarrolla poco la ambientación que era lo más interesante y se centra en cosas que sinceramente no podían importarme menos.
También que la gente está muy enfadada durante toda la novela y me cansó un poco xD
PERO, lo dicho, me encantaron muchos detalles de la trama, fan de los juegos con los cuentos clásicos y creo, que aunque demasiado largo, es un libro entretenido y en cierta manera original.
OJALÁ UNA SERIE de este libro porque en las manos correctas sería lo mejor de la vida.

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,846 followers
April 28, 2021
Witchy feminist historical fantasy, anyone?

Why yes, that sounds great!

And indeed, the writing itself is beautiful and immersive, and engaging, especially at the point where the women's suffrage movement meets a nascent coven. I loved how the earlier dark Salem history dovetailed at dozens of points with the New Salem history, how dire so many of these stories were. After all, the real witch hunts were WITCH HUNTS.

And let's face it, that's what we've got to work with here among a larger backdrop of family, found family, and forged-in-blood witchy family. I got into the characters and loved the 1890's New Salem backdrop, the desire to be heard butting heads with the politics and squabbles between all the different groups that OUGHT to have gotten along.

(Side note, the black movement USED to work tightly with the women's suffrage moment until the women betrayed the blacks, saying that their cause would be stronger without them, and this was noted, briefly, but not explored. Indeed, there is also ANOTHER history that was majorly glossed over... and that is the fact that MEN were always a huge part of the Women's Suffrage Movement, too. And this is where I began to have a problem with this novel.)

I enjoyed this entire novel from start to the witchy three on several huge levels.

Unfortunately, I've been unfortunate enough to have had read approximately three dozen novels in the last four years that explicitly demonize all men.

So what, you ask? Well, I'm a man. If I'm reading novels like this that may very well accurately portray extremely bad behavior of men, it does not follow that ALL men are a part of this heavy-handed propaganda piece. If I was to buy into the pervasive message in this, or MANY other books currently being written in this vein, then I'd have to assume that all men are evil and must die horrible deaths. No, not all women are angels here, but they are, after all, always and ever the victims of men, over and over and over again. Let's call it what it is. This is a 3rd stage feminist piece. The few men who seem to be decent are either neutered, foolish, or gay. The only deep characterizations are women.

As a man reading this, I have to read it through a rather uncomfortable lens. If this was the only time -- or even the eighth time, I could blow it off as a bit of cultural steam release and just shrug and pretend to be a woman while knowing this really harms men in general -- especially men who WANT happiness, peace, and equality.

But then I remember Alix E. Harrow's other wonderful book and it DID seem to have well-rounded characters all over the place. When I compare it to THIS book, I get the impression that this hardcore feminist slant is a publisher request. After all, SO many books are being published with this political push. So I don't blame the writer. Her novel is quite gorgeous. The storytelling, the myths and histories, and the children's rhymes work so well toward the full, magical end.

But for me, as a man, it was positively PAINFUL to read if I wanted to take anything personal out of it. That is... unless I wanted to go for total self-negation -- or even suicide. I hated every man in here. And this doesn't seem to be an isolated experience.

So it really begs the question, doesn't it?

Are we really to the point where there are no good men characters in recent literature anymore?


But yeah, other than that, I thought this was a pretty fantastic and beautiful novel.
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