The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
Disclaimer: I received a proof copy for free fromt he publisher in the hopes I’d review it, which I mean I have done and wanted to do anyway, so I would’ve got to it one way or another. The fact it was gifted does not affect my views at all.
What happens when you mix suffragettes, fairy tales and witches into a book? I’ll tell you what, great magical things happen with a pinch of trouble, a lot of adventure, and feminism.
Once and Future Witches is all about what defines us as women and how we stand tall and havethat fire inside us, the magic, the witchcraft that makes us persevere (in some places they’d call it grit or mother nature, or many other things).
Getting into the actual story we meet three young women, the Eastwood sisters, who inexplicably end up coming together at a suffragist meeting in New Salem after being apart and following their own path for a while.
One of the things I liked a lot here was that the relationships between the sisters and their internal struggles are not exactly fairy tale stories, but could be any of us today. Each of them carries some heavy trauma, heavy burdens and things to be worried or anxious about, and each has to figure them out in part on their own but also as they figure out where they stand as sisters.
It has a lot on sisterhood both as a family and born into it look, but also as a we’re all coming together, strangers and found family, into this. Alongside dealing with what happens when you make certain choices and act on resentment, fear, anger, etc. To me, it is those parts that shine the most in this book alongside the “retellings” and reworkings of fairy tales and “new tales” that are peppered through the book.
Probably the one part that this struggles is sometimes some odd choices on plot and behaviour of the characters (I had a proof copy so it may be different in the final version) and that the worldbuilding relies heavily on a lot of gaps to be filled by us or to be inferred meaning sometimes it is hard to remember what you thought x should be. Probably part of the problem was I read it through a long period of time due to different life interruptions and coming back to it I’d have to leaf back a few pages or just skim read back to try to place myself. This is probably the place it can do a lot better in.
Overall, if you are looking for a feminist book with lots of witchcraft, a fairy tale but not the Disney vibe and more the true Grimm brothers style, and sisterhood, this is the book for you. It was a wild ride and one that left me wondering what comes next.