Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow


Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Genre /Tropes: Fantasy, Witches
Release Date: 13 Oct 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 4 Stars


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.


I absolutely loved this author's debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and was very excited to read this one too. In the end reading it was a wild ride, it's a rich, mesmerizing and loudly feminist but also dark, slow at times and disturbing. 

It started a bit slow for me and it took me a while to warm of the the three sisters but after the half mark, it picked up pace significantly and I couldn't put it down till the end.

The author creates a rich world of spells and witching populated with diverse characters, all standing firmly on their own, all of them quite memorable. At the same time there were some dark and painful to read scene for me to read personally

In full honesty it all felt very gender essentialist to me at aroudn 30%, and I was worried it will go fully into "all men are bad and all women must fight them with any means at their disposal". I am glad to say this changed and as the story continued there was less focus on gender but rather on power dynamic, people with all the power and rights and people with none of them. 

It was truly empowering, there were moments of joy, true friendship and camaraderie. I would say the focus is on building relationships of all kinds - familial, between friends and co-workers, between lovers. 

I appreciate the casual queer rep and the way the author explored racial relations, labour and voting rights. 

There are strong love/romance elements which made the romance reader in me ecstatic. They were not the main focus of the story but they were solidly drawn and made me believe in them and in their HEAs. 

The ending was both unexpected and fitting in a way. It felt right but also made me ugly cry, so there is that and I am not saying anything more in order to avoid spoiling it for other readers. 

In short, I would recommend this book with the caveat that you need to be in the right headspace for it. 

CW: abuse, torture, difficult childbirth, burning at the stake, sexual harassment

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