The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E. Harrow

When you think about it, we rarely see good anger. Literature is full of annoyance, frustration, rage, and wrath—but it’s hard for me to think of examples of righteous fury. When we see anger in literature and the movies, we see anger as a bad thing and something that characters need to get through in order to find forgiveness and redemption. And, most of the time, I think this is a perfectly valid way to portray anger. Anger is like fire: dangerous when it gets out of control. But in The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E. Harrow, I got to see the power of righteous fury in changing the status quo for the better. This anger is dangerous, sure, but it warmed me like a cozy hearth.

Like so many other stories, The Once and Future Witches begins with three sisters. One is wise. One is strong. The last one is wild. All of them are on the run from a horrible childhood and old grudges. They’ve been separated for seven years but, when James Juniper Eastwood arrives in New Salem after running from her latest crime. She plans to seek out her sisters but, first, she wants to attend a big suffragist rally in the main square. This novel doesn’t let any grass grow under its metaphorical feet when a work of great magic pulls the three sisters together while also revealing something that all women thought was lost when the last witches were burned at old Salem two hundred years prior.

The Once and Future Witches races along, twisting together sub-plots featuring all three sisters’ emotional traumas with the larger story of the three sisters leading a witchy rebellion against a man who threatens to stamp out the women’s movement (witchy or otherwise) once and for all. I loved every page of this novel; I really did. I loved how Harrow created an alternate history of great women of the past, plagues, and magic. And I really, really enjoyed seeing the protagonists harness their fury against the world’s unfairness and misogyny and racism and fight back against it with everything they have. This book is a fantastic antidote to the weary depression I feel when I read the latest news in this very shitty year.

This summary doesn’t do justice to The Once and Future Witches. There’s just too much to sum up about this incredible story. It’s the kind of book I don’t want to go into too much depth on because I want readers to fall into it the way I did, with no clue what was going to happen next while the plot rocketed around from highs to lows to defeats and triumphs. I want readers to feel just as breathless as I did. It’s the kind of book I want to buy a bagful of copies so that I can run to all my friends, shove it into their hands, and shout “Read this!” while I hurry off to the next future reader.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve just finished this book and loved it SO much. I understand what you mean about not wanting to say too much in a review – I haven’t written mine yet and I’m not sure how to express everything it made me feel x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always a weird experience to write a review that’s less about the book’s contents than it is about how those contents made us feel–especially when I loved every minute. When I really love a book, I often want to forgo the review and just run out into the streets shoving copies of the book into people’s faces. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

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