Ok I know it's been over a month since I blogged. The holidays were weird as you can imagine and I'm scrambling to run my business, ...

The Once & Future Witches: A Review

Ok I know it's been over a month since I blogged. The holidays were weird as you can imagine and I'm scrambling to run my business, so I'm popping by to let you know ~ I'm not dead yet!

I've been occupying my time catching up on a little reading. I requested The Once and Futures Witches by Alix E. Harrow from the library a while ago. It came out this past October and was finally available to borrow. If you've followed me along my blog journey, you know I like witches and have reviewed multiple books and movies about them. I was hoping to plow through this in a couple days like I usually do, but I will admit it was a little too easy to put down. I think it should have been divided into at least three books, and the story and characters development could have been expanded on much further. Let me try to break it down without giving too much away.

It's a combination of horror and medieval fantasy, (you could probably tell from the title taken from The Once and Future King), with a little late 1800s history thrown in. The Once and Future Witches tells the story of three sisters whose mother died giving birth to the youngest of them and whose father was an abusive alcoholic. They get separated along the way but are drawn together after their father is killed. The oldest daughter is a bookish lesbian, the middle daughter is promiscuous, and the youngest is a feral survivor. Their relationships are complicated and there's lots of unspoken anger and resentment that does eventually come out in the story, but it's a very slow burn. (Witch pun intended.)

Their story is layered on the backdrop of New Salem where there is "no sin". Old Salem was burned down along with witches and their books so there would be no records of them and their knowledge. In the New Salem there's suffragists, a fair, underground tunnels for African Americans to escape, shadow beasts, and a mysterious tower that emerges out of nowhere. (I won't give it away, but it plays an important part to the first half of the book.)

Despite this, the witch ways are kept out in the open in the form of Grimms' Fairy Tales, nursery rhymes, mystical Avalon stories, and so many other notes hidden here and there. The Once and Future Witches changes those tales that the reader is familiar with to suit this story, (and I'm sure over time the exact phrasing of the rhymes and tales has changed too.) 

This book focuses on fantasy witches who cast spells to break every glass in the room and turn trees to gold, but it also has the theme of women wanting their freedom, their voice having power, and their will having weight. Women that are midwifes, healers, suffragists, prostitutes, fortune tellers, radicals and more are targets and subject to trial by fire at the hand of the mayor. There's key lines like "An angry woman is a smart woman." and if you're a woman, you know this to be true.

The three sisters form a secret witch society to bring witching back. If you have "the words, the will, and the way" you can do most anything and I honestly believe that's true. The sisters end up fighting an evil mayor who's a descendant of one of the most well known fairy tales ever told, all while there's a second plague making everyone sick in the town. 

Yes, this book is very timely and a reflection of what's going on in the US with women's right, our ex-President as of today (whoot!), and Coronavirus. It's a new twist on witch history, with characters that correspond with modern things and people. I'd say take the time to read this one, it can be very relatable and poignant if you let it.