The Once and Future Witches has been on my to be read pile for quite a while now. I was finally able to secure an audiobook loan from my local library. Yes, I have a hard copy, but that does not allow me the ability to read while I put my youngest to bed. The magic, if you will, of an audiobook and decent headphones does.
I loved Alix E. Harrow’s first book The Ten Thousand Doors of January so much, I was sure this book would be no different. The only difference is I found I liked this book even more. Why? This one was about witches. Which seems to be my favorite subject of some of my recent favorite reads: The Witches of New York, The Night Circus, and Circe to name just a few. This book begins as most books about witches do…
Once upon a time there were witches. But since those witches women who enjoyed witchin’ did so in secret. For the men of this time saw witchin’ as the devils work. In reality they really didn’t want women to have anything that gave them more power over a man. Sound familiar? This book could have easily been set today. But instead it was set between 1893 and 1894 in the town of New Salem (some distance north of the original Salem) when a black tower appears and three sisters meet again after some time apart.
It is here in the town square we meet the Eastwood Sisters: Beatrice Belladonna (the eldest and bookworm), Agnes Amaranth (middle sister and the most nurturing), and James Juniper (the baby and wilest of the bunch). From this meeting the sisters start on a grand adventure to bring back witchin’ to the world. They have some help from Miss Cleo Quinn, Miss Jenny Lee, and a whole host of others wanting to bring back the old ways. Of course there is also the bad guy who wants the old ways to stay gone and will not stop until the Eastwood sisters are.
There are many moments in this book that I found myself saying “Just one more chapter” until it was close to two in the morning. There were also some memorable nods to why pockets on women’s clothing is never big enough or there at all..to keep us from witchin’. Why am I not surprised? I was happily surprised to find representation of Black women, LGBTQA+ (though the addition of a transwoman was a bit too glossed over, but at least it was there and mentioned). Heterosexual relationships were not the only ones focused on. In fact, that one was saved to the very end and instead we were treated to a relationship between two women which was a nice change of pace.
While I won’t spoil the book for you. I mean you really should read it if you enjoy books about witches and sticking it to the man. I will tell you that the book is full of spells and implies that many ways of witches were hidden in nursery rhymes and other tales of the fairy variety. But were they really? Well, I guess you’ll have to both read and try them out yourself when you read The Once and Future Witches.
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