The Once and Future Witches

By Alix E. Harrow,

Book cover of The Once and Future Witches

Book description


'Glorious . . . a tale that will sweep you away' Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger

'A gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women' Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer


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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Once and Future Witches as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved The Once and Future King, so I was drawn to this book by the title. I loved the three sisters, who are the main protagonists immediately (even though they can be a bit prickly).

Reading their three storylines and waiting to see how they would converge was enjoyable. Juniper reminds me of Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s books. Harrow gives us a feminist adventure story full of magic, and I’m here for every page of it.

Alix Harrow writes that “behind every witch is a women wronged.”

Here are three sisters wronged by an abusive father who have hurt and betrayed each other in the past, but the bonds of love and sisterhood and witchcraft are stronger.

This book is for every woman because every woman has felt powerless. Every woman has been marginalized and dismissed but these three sisters prove to all of us that there is great power when women come together as they have throughout history.

I was rooting like crazy for these the sisters to prevail. I was charmed by the spells…

From Virginia's list on leaving you spellbound.

Witches speaks eloquently, fiercely, and passionately to anyone who is seething with quiet and desperate fury, feeling lost and powerless in a world controlled by self-absorbed men who wield their corrupt version of “truth” like a weapon. It’s not just a story…it’s a paean, a prophecy, a polemic. It doesn’t tell a tale; it tattoos it on your soul. It’s about the absolute and terrifying joy of trust and faith, the unrelenting ferocity of love, and the implacable will anyone who’s ever been dismissed can wield when given even the faintest spark of inspiration and hope. Oh, and it also…

From Sean's list on mix magic and mystery with history.

Did I mention that I am a sucker for alternative histories? This one takes place in a nineteenth-century America where both witchcraft and women’s rights are ruthlessly suppressed, but three sisters, all witches, are working to revive magic by tracking down forgotten spells. I found this novel much scarier than many fantasy novels because, well, the authorities’ efforts to keep women in line felt all too true to life. The relationships among the sisters are thorny, warm, and satisfyingly complex, and Alix Harrow’s rich, evocative language makes their magic powerfully real.

From Emily's list on fantasy about learning magic.

I here reluctantly admit that I only recently began reading speculative fiction (thanks to a collaboration with my friend and colleague Amy Johnson). The Once and Future Witches is at once historical and speculative. Harrow weaves the story of three sisters named Agnes Amaranth, Beatrice Belladonna, and James Juniper together with the American women's suffrage movement and witchcraft simultaneously familiar yet reimagined. It is a magnificent story, but it’s also a thoughtful meditation on gender, race, and what different kinds of power look like, especially when considered from new perspectives. I simultaneously couldn’t stop reading and didn’t want it to…

From Joy's list on systems of power and oppression.

Witches, feminism, race relations, sapphic love, the power of words—this book has all of it and lit a passionate, delighted, mischievous, and poignant flame in me. Harrow’s writing is lovely and magical, like a spell itself, while unfolding a twisty tale of three sisters who find themselves representing the hallowed pagan triad of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The story is set in an alternate-history world of New Salem, USA, in the late 1800s, and I loved the little world-building details differentiating this world from ours. Wait till you hear what happened to OLD Salem…(*shiver*).

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