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The Once and Future Witches

by Alix E. Harrow

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5112235,349 (4.09)28

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Strong themes and a poetic style. I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, the writing style isn't for me. Its unrelenting quirky metaphors began to grate on me. Eventually I noticed that *everything* "smells of X and Y", where Y is intangible. If that had been deployed once a chapter, I would have thought it was a nice construction...but it was every few sentences.

Beyond the writing style there's a powerful story about women's rights. I liked the ties between the three sisters and Agnes's evolving feelings about relationships. ( )
  pyanfarrrr | Apr 17, 2021 |
Tor.com "Five SFF Books About Wicked Women" https://www.tor.com/2021/04/05/five-sff-books-about-wicked-women/
  Seayla2020 | Apr 10, 2021 |
The story of three sisters who become witch activists in the hostile town of New Salem is mostly well paced and interesting. The characters seem a bit stiff and fill in the blanks and the whole might would have benefited from tightening up but it remains a worthwhile read. ( )
  quondame | Mar 17, 2021 |
Hm. This book was very well written and the world was rich, but the pacing was so slow that it was less enjoyable. ( )
  thereserose5 | Mar 3, 2021 |
Oh, what a book to start off 2021! Harrow weaves an enchanting tale of women and witchcraft, power and suffrage, love and loss around the lives of the Eastwood sisters. You know that sisters that come in threes are bound to get into trouble when they are together, and the Eastwood sisters (though estranged at the outset of this tale) are no exception. The story starts as the youngest sister, James Juniper, arrives in New Salem, on the run after finally having enough of their abusive father and giving him his righteous due. Obviously in the eyes of the law, which in their world favours men even more extremely than it does in ours (especially when a hint of witchcraft is possible), her act of self-defense brands her a murderer, setting the stage for Juniper to arrive in New Salem disenfranchised with the world of men, and ready to take up arms in any cause supporting women. Ironically, the first act of magic is not caused by Juniper’s will, and is an accident that trips off the tongue of eldest sister Beatrice Belladona, an assistant librarian obsessed with the witch-tales that mirror the folk and fairytales of our world. These stories are steeped in magic lore, which is slowly unfurled over the course of the story as Harrow explores the rich magical history of witchcraft, folklore, and the ways in which heritage (in this case magical heritage) is passed down through the ages in the world of the Eastwood sisters. These three, rounded out by middle sister Agnes Amaranth, provide the spark of magic that the women of New Salem need to rise up against the men who have spent centuries beating them down, denying their magical heritage (whether good or bad), and treating them like second- (and in some cases third-) class citizens. Harrow does an excellent job of weaving traditional magic lore in throughout her story, drawing on ideas around language, objects, and intention that are the tenants of witchcraft and all magical practises, while giving us an excellent storyline that explores important themes centring on equality, justice, and family. I almost wish that the book hadn’t ended so neatly, since I desperately want to explore more of this magical world, but at the same time having this little piece of literary perfection is just right. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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To my mother and grandmother and
all the women they burned before us
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There's no such thing as witches, but there used to be.
Maybe magic is just the space between what you have and what you need.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A witch origin story set in 1893, The Once and Future Witches follows the Eastwood sisters, together after unwanted separation, as they join the suffragists of New Salem. The suffrage movement soon starts to parallel a bubbling witch's movement that only the sisters can lead, if they can bind the wounds between themselves. Harrow follows up her Hugo Award win with a highly enjoyable and inherently feminist sophomore novel.

In 1893, there's no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters — James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna — join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote — and perhaps not even to live — the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There's no such thing as witches. But there will be. [From Barnes and Noble Website]
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