The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches

Book - 2020
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In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in Alix E. Harrow's powerful novel of magic and the suffragette movement.

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR Books * Barnes and Noble * BookPage

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. An homage to the indomitable power and persistence of women, The Once and Future Witches reimagines stories of revolution, motherhood, and women's suffrage--the lost ways are calling.

Praise for The Once and Future Witches :

"A gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women. The characters live, bleed, and roar. I adore them, and long for witchcraft to awaken in all of us. Harrow makes it feel possible, and even likely."―Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author

"A glorious escape into a world where witchcraft has dwindled to a memory of women's magic, and three wild, sundered sisters hold the key to bring it back...A tale that will sweep you away."―Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author

"This book is an amazing bit of spellcraft and resistance so needed in our times, and a reminder that secret words and ways can never be truly and properly lost, as long as there are tongues to speak them and ears to listen."―P. Djèlí Clark, author The Black God's Drum

For more from Alix E. Harrow, check out The Ten Thousand Doors of January .
Publisher: New York : Redhook, 2020.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316422048
Branch Call Number: FANTASY HARROW A
Characteristics: 516 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Witchcraft meets the suffragist movement in this dazzling tale from my favorite up-and-coming fantasy she-ro. -Leah, Readers' Services

LPL_LeahN Nov 10, 2020

Witchcraft meets the suffragist movement in this dazzling tale from my favorite up-and-coming fantasy she-ro, Alix E. Harrow.

James Juniper, Agnes, and Bella are the Eastwood Sisters, each a wayward force in their own right after escaping a toxic home life and separately making their way to th... Read More »

From the critics

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May 20, 2021

I was very disappointed - I absolutely loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January and was hopefully expecting more of the same. The characters seemed one-dimensional and boring. There was great representation and diversity, but it seemed disingenuous and rlike the author had a checklist that she worked off to make sure she got everything.

On a side note (although petty) I read the hardcover of this book and cannot check but the author had to refer to people's lips "curling" at least 30 times. They curled when they were happy, angry, sad, sneering, etc. It was distracting.

May 11, 2021

I know people love this, but it felt uninteresting to me. Each character could've been strong, but the author didn't really build them out enough for us to care about them.

Apr 01, 2021

I liked the 10,000 Doors of January better

SPL_Melanie Mar 08, 2021

Full review for the Shelf Help newsletter found under the Summary tab.

Feb 27, 2021

If Practical Magic and authors Lindy West and Rebecca Solnit got together and had a book baby, it would be this beautiful piece of work. I'll admit, I sludged at parts through it during my listening journey because (as another reviewer described) the world-building is dense , to say the least. There's a lot happening and not a lot happening at the same time if that makes sense? Overall, very good read just a little slower than I was prepared. Definitely for fans of Alice Hoffman and fantasy.

Jan 30, 2021

This was such an inclusive, engaging, magical novel. I really enjoyed it and found it hard to predict the ending.

LoganLib_Sheridan Jan 09, 2021

I loved the feminist narrative as it is very inclusive. There are a great variety of women in this novel, black, rick, poor, trans etc. They all work together to achieve their goals. They are stronger together. There is also male allies and a male witch villain.

These characters deliver a particular message. I love the sisters. Juniper is the embodiment of disenfranchised female rage. Cleo too the embodiment of POC female rage. The rage that bubbles up in you every time you face a gender based injustice as a woman. Juniper might be rash and independent but she gets things done and she's there for her sisters and friends.

Agnes is the embodiment of the juggling women do with themselves. They have responsibilities as workers, mothers and wives and sometimes you have to decide what is most important and what you are willing to sacrifice. I also love that she chooses both to have and not have an abortion because these are two different pregnancies and she each decision is right for her at the time.

Beatrice was the wise older sister who values learning and knowledge. She represents those who are passionate about learning and have been underestimated in their experience and wisdom. She is also in a lesbian relationship with Cleo.

I'm not sure how I feel about the POC and Trans rep but I am also not part of these communities. The sisters and their group work with the POC witch community but there is no real overlap. I understood this to be the author acknowledging the differing struggle of POC women and recognising that it may not be her place to write about it.

I think the trans rep was pretty good. It wasn't a blip but it also wasn't used to make a huge big statement. They just discover that one of the suffragette's is trans and they accept her.

It has been said that this book kind of overshadows the work of the suffragettes by empowering women through (unfortunately) unrealistic magic when women really did struggle and fight for empowerment through the right to vote.

I think Agnes and Mr Lee's relationship is interesting. She is reluctant to accept help from him at first, thinking that men only want you when you're down. But realising it's okay to accept help and I think this is true and you will know the difference between the two. Mr Lee fully supports her and does whatever her can to protect her.

Now the evil male witch is interesting because he misuses magic or 'women's power' to keep control but they end up working together to overcome him using that same magic and the knowledge passed down from witch to witch.

Jan 03, 2021

Oh, what a perfect way to start 2021 with this delightful, thrilling, juicy from the first page till the last novel! I'm always desiring more stories of Witches from a working-class perspective and with an eclectic range of diversity and Alix delivers thoroughly. This alternate reality feels authentic, and the clever injection of History in the form of Suffragists and the deplorable decision to leave out Black and Brown Women, combined with a piercing look at sweatshop conditions elevates this to that wonderful amalgamation of what makes reading pure Joy for me. The witchy use of well-known Nursery Rhymes and the interspersed and subversive Fairy Tales adds another rich layer to the Story of these complex, tenacious, courageous Sisters. All driving a plot that stays the course and delivers emphatically without flinching. I will definitely be reading more of Alix's work and if you're looking for that special wintertime book this might be the one.

Dec 27, 2020

The idea of combining witches with suffragists intrigued me. I found the book interesting in the beginning especially how the author took the tales of the brothers Grimm and turned them into stories by the Sisters Grimm that hide spells and magic.

The books caused me to think about the women's right to vote as the beginning of the struggle for women's rights.
The author cleverly includes workplace struggles such as the Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Doors were locked to keep women and girls from leaving their sewing machines. It is one of the deadliest workplace disasters in the US and led to the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. But how many people stop reading to research events in a novel.

Improving the woman's place in the world is what this novel is about in the guise of witchcraft. I found the book interesting in the beginning. It was cleverly written. But I got bogged down in all the information. The book needed to be about 100 pages shorter. The burning at the stake scene near the end was graphic and disturbing to read. I tried to give the book 4 stars but just couldn't.

melwyk Dec 11, 2020

Really inventive and melding two of my favourite things: the fight for women's rights and witchiness. The fairy tale structures and strong characters drew me in and I was really enjoying it but the ending took off a full star from my opinion of it.

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Dec 27, 2020

"This witch-hunt has gone on long enough, I think. People will grow discontented soon, perhaps doubtful, if I don't produce the witches. Of course, this is the choice. It's always the choice, in the end--sacrifice someone else, trade one heart for another, buy your survival at the price of someone else's. Save yourself ...."

Dec 27, 2020

"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."

Dec 27, 2020

Juniper said, "Witching and women's rights. Suffrage and spells. They're both a kind of power, aren't they? The kind we aren't allowed to have."


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SPL_Melanie Mar 08, 2021

The Once and Future Witches combines women's rights and folklore to create an alternate past when women had suppressed magical gifts needing to be restored to the world. Enter the Eastwood sisters, Belladonna, Amaranth & Juniper.
These three are estranged, but as Juniper searches out her older sisters, and begins to fight for both votes and magic, they must come together to save women's magic in the world. They are distinct -- bookish, maternal, or completely wild. But they all have magic in their blood. They find, however, that their kind of magic isn't the only kind there is.
The story includes a nod to other communities outside of the sisters' world. Belladonna begins a relationship with Cleo, a black journalist with a different magical tradition. It expands the story to have other communities acknowledged, even though the Eastwood quest is the central theme and focus.

The story starts out with energy and power, leading to a dramatic showdown between the Eastwoods and the vile politician trying to eradicate women's magic forever. Throughout this book, you’ll find discussion about women’s place in the world and the ways in which their power is both withheld and reclaimed. Looking at this history from a slightly off-centre viewpoint, which places suffragettes and witches in the same story, allows the author to illuminate the past in a new way. It’s an exciting, thought-provoking read for lovers of both fantasy and history.


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