Alix E. Harrow’s sophomore novel, The Once and Future Witches, impresses readers with this fantastical take on retelling history, highlighting the suffrage movement.
By far, The Once and Future Witches is one of the most influential books I have had the pleasure of reading right now. The story follows the Eastwood sisters―James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna―brought together again by the mystical appearance of a tower in New Salem. After their father shipped the oldest two off to different destinations, these sisters have not seen one another in years.
There is tension between them to drive the story, but they are also bound by their deep love for one another, their belief that maybe they can help the suffragists achieve the rights they deserve.
However, they do not realize that they need this, their witching, more than anything else. Beaten down by society, by men, and religion, women are made to feel lesser than. So now they are using nursery rhymes and fairy tales to stand up for themselves, to speak their spells with words of intent.
Witching is power against those who would oppress us. All we need are the words, will, and intent. This powerful and empowering message resonates throughout the novel, capturing the reader’s attention and holding it while inspiring them. This is a story about equal rights, sexism, and how the term “witch” is used as an insult against women who speak their minds and fight for their rights.
The Once and Future Witches is a novel that gives strength and power to women and the word “witch.”
Strong Female Characters
The fact that the novel splits between the three sisters was terrific. Readers see who these three women are and how different they are. Juniper is the youngest of the three, finally away from her abusive father. She goes to New Salem to join the suffragist and expand her knowledge of witching. Juniper is a firecracker of a cracker, all brash, spunk, and attitude, making her a lioness. She is the catalyst and spurs her sisters on to reclaim the pieces of themselves that they lost.
Anges is the middle sister, believed to be the strongest of the three sisters. Anges is the more pragmatic of the three sisters. She is the balance between them and her ferocity; she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes out.
That is what makes Anges so powerful as a character, that she deals with realism, that she stands by her sisters despite her reservations because she wants a better life for her daughter more than anything.
Finally, there is Beatrice Belladonna. Beatrice is the oldest of the three, the librarian, who lives with her head in the clouds and her nose in books. She takes strength from knowledge, from fairy tales, from the magic wrapped within the pages of nursery rhymes. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Beatrice is also the most lost of the characters. While it is not easy being a part of that community now, back in the 1800s, it was even worse.
Beatrice is also beaten down by society, keeping herself closed off and hidden. However, her journey and connection with her sisters give her strength; it gives her the power to fight for those she loves. Moreover, in the end, she learns to love herself and accept herself, becoming a formidable witch by the end.
The Once and Future Witches is inspiring. A novel that takes readers back and makes witches real leaves the reader feeling empowered and determined to fight for women’s rights.
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|Pub Date: October 13, 2020||Page Count: 528pp||Age Range: 16 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-0-3164-2204-8||Publisher: Redhook||List Price: $28.00|