Book Review | The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow



Title: The Once and Future Witches

Author: Alix E Harrow

Publisher: Little Brown Book Group UK

Release Date: 15th October 2020

Source: NetGalley

Buy: Amazon UK

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 three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten 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 must 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.


At this time of year with the nights darker and the temperatures dropping there is nothing better than curling up with a very large book, The Once and Future Witches has been that book for the last few evenings.

It is the story of the estranged Eastwood sisters, James Juniper, Beatrice Belladonna and Agnes Amaranth and how, after a long estrangement, they find themselves in the same place at the same time in the town of New Salem.

The late 19th century in New Salem is not a good place for women, we cannot vote, we work for lecherous men who think they own us and we cannot use the gifts our mothers and grandmothers left us, the gifts of witching.  Witching is forbidden, the last witches were burned to death and it’s frankly better that you keep any special little tricks to yourself.

Juniper Eastwood, the youngest, has other ideas, she joins the women’s suffrage movement with plans to kick up a fuss.  She wants to gather witches and show the men the power they have, her sisters being older and slightly wiser are hesitant to begin with but slowly the Eastwood sisters find that they are not alone in their path, women from all backgrounds of life want to support them.  Of course their path is not clear, a man stands in their way, a man who seems to be surrounded by dark shadows who do his bidding and he wants the Eastwood’s and their witch sisters gone by any means necessary.  He has taken on the wrong sisters.

The Eastwood sisters are very unique characters and through them we meet a whole host of supporting characters, the most notable is Cleo, Bella’s lover.  Being a witch in 1893 is a dangerous business but being in a biracial lesbian relationship is no picnic either and Cleo and Bella of course cannot display any hint of affection on the outside.   Agnes is also hiding a secret, she is pregnant and she is single, not so much a big deal these days but again 1893, it is definitely frowned upon.  The good thing is the ladies are not alone, they have a found many kindred spirits throughout New Salem and they are determined to help each other out through thick and thin as witching becomes punishable and the mayor hunts them down.

I almost DNF’d this book twice, it is a long book, maybe a touch too long as in the middle and near the end I got a little disenchanted with it.  Don’t get me wrong it is beautifully written and the world building is suitably dark but sometimes I felt a few pages had passed with nothing much happening but a lot of talking and brooding.  The repetition of their names also annoyed me a little but maybe its a nod to witches spells, the incantations?  I also feel the side characters where exactly that, I really wanted to find out more about them .  

I wanted this to to be much darker and possibly scarier but that is just me and my tastes, this wasn’t totally for me but that doesn’t mean it wont be for you.

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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8 comments

  1. I loved this but I agree, it was very long. I also noticed the name repetition but it didn't bother me. I thought it worked with what she was trying to do with the spells and rhymes.

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  2. Hmmm, thanks for the review. Might wait on this one.

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  3. I am going to try it anyway. I loved The Ten Thousand Years of January. Thanks for your review.

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  4. I thought this sounded interesting but the things that bothered you would probably bother me too. Maybe I'll try it in a year that's more "normal."

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  5. I ended up DNFing this one. I think I was expecting something darker so that writing style surprised me.

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  6. Sounds like there is a fair bit of diversity in the characters for those who read a lot of diverse books. I think I'd have DNFed it by the sound of it though!

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  7. Hey Heather, I just found your blog and I think it's lovely so I am gonna start following you, I write reviews about books too so you can follow my blog too if you'd like to. The book you are talking about today seems very intriguing, at least from it's title but I saw that you almost stopped reading it twice even though you don't think it's a bad bood. It's so sad that sometimes some stories get lost because they did not have a good editor to make the story shine. I'm gonna be back to read more of your posts! Have a nice day :)

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  8. Interesting, this book is on my radar to read, I guess I will go ahead with it - I am not looking for dark but neither being longer than it needs is something I want. Maybe I'll do the library version of it rather than a buy.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it and will make the time to come and visit your blog, maybe not today but soon as I am always behind!

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