The Once and Future Witches - book cover
Literature & Fiction
  • Publisher : Redhook; Reprint edition
  • Published : 28 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 544
  • ISBN-10 : 0316422010
  • ISBN-13 : 9780316422017
  • Language : English

The Once and Future Witches

"A gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women. The characters live, bleed, and roar. "―Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel • Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR Books • Barnes and Noble • BookPage

In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in this powerful novel of magic, family, and the suffragette movement. 

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.

An homage to the indomitable power and persistence of women, The Once and Future Witches reimagines stories of revolution, motherhood, and women's suffrage—the lost ways are calling.

Praise for The Once and Future Witches:

"A glorious escape into a world where witchcraft has dwindled to a memory of women's magic, and three wild, sundered sisters hold the key to bring it back...A tale that will sweep you away."―Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author 

"This book is an amazing bit of spellcraft and resistance so needed in our times, and a reminder that secret words and ways can never be truly and properly lost, as long as there are tongues to speak them and ears to listen."―P. Djèlí Clark, author The Black God's Drum

For more from Alix E. Harrow, check out The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Editorial Reviews

"A gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women. The characters live, bleed, and roar. I adore them, and long for witchcraft to awaken in all of us. Harrow makes it feel possible, and even likely."―Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author

"A glorious escape into a world where witchcraft has dwindled to a memory of women's magic, and three wild, sundered sisters hold the key to bring it back....A tale that will sweep you away."―Yangsze Choo, NYT bestselling author of Night Tiger and The Ghost Bride

"This novel cleverly connects the dots between the suffragist movement of the past to the Me Too movement of today. Compelling, exhilarating, and magical, The Once and Future Witches is a must-read."―Booklist (starred review)

"A radiant masterpiece of pure storytelling magic! Meet the Eastwood Sisters and prepare to take the best book vacation you will have in a long time."―Gwendolyn Womack, USA Today bestselling author of The Fortune Teller

"Drawn from folklore and history, ­Harrow's lyrical prose immerses readers in a story of power and secrets that is not easily ­forgotten."―Library Journal (starred review)

"The magical tale of imperfect heroines, fractured sisterhood, and shadowy undying villains you never knew you needed. Alix Harrow crafts a delightfully bewitching story with familiar but ingeniously recrafted histories and deft worldbuilding as rich as the prose that leaps off the page. This book is an amazing bit of spellcraft and resistance so needed in our times, and a reminder that secret words and ways can never be truly and properly lost, as long as there are tongues to speak them and ears to listen."―P. Djèlí Clark, author The Black God's Drum

"A love letter to folklore and the rebellious women of history."―Publishers Weekly

"This is a delightful, satisfying novel, a tale of women's battle for equality, of fairy tales twisted into wonderfully witchy spells, of magics both large and small, and history re-imagined. All of it is told in Alix Harrow's exquisite language and with her vivid characterizations-a great pleasure to read."―Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches

"A breathtaking book-brilliant and raw and dark and complicated. It's also, to be blunt, uncannily relevant."―Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars

"A brilliant dazzle of a book. This story of sisters and witches, memory and power cracked open my heart and set down roots there. I devoured it in enormous gulps, and utterly loved it."―Kat Howard, author of An Unkindness of Ghosts

Previous praise for Alix E. Harrow:

Readers Top Reviews

PDHkatieAndy GrahamG
I found this story completely absorbing. It presents one of the most believable ways that magic might exist, passed down in tales and nursery rhymes, in sewing tips and recipes, with pieces lost or dismissed as unimportant. Because why would women's special work be valued or appreciated? Or allowed? I can admit now that I was worried the much advertised 'suffrage' aspect of the book might make it preachy rather than entertaining. But it’s not, not at all. It simply frames an utterly compelling world where the lack of equality has one more aspect. It remains a proper fantasy, through and through. Magical action, diabolical plots and all. And yet. So.Very.Fresh. The relationships, whether between sisters, friends or lovers, are beautifully laid out. I thought the pacing was perfect, these characters are emotionally damaged and rushing into any new connection would have been wrong for them. I wept more than once. I find it hard to believe I don’t have a whole shelf of Alix E Harrow's novels already. She writes like a long time giant of the genre. Guess I’ll just have to be patient!
Jess Gofton
When I say I love and want stories about witches, this is the kind of story I mean. Over the past year I’ve fallen in love with Alix E. Harrow’s stories. Not only is she an author who combines fantasy with historical fiction, one of my favourite things to read and write, and not only is her writing stunning, but there’s something so nostalgic about her tales that reminds me why it is we love stories in the first place. After celebrating the portal fantasy genre in The Ten Thousand Doors of January, it’s time for witches to shine in The Once and Future Witches and oh how I adored this book. James Juniper is the youngest of three sisters who were all incredibly close until they weren’t. Until the day her older sisters left her with their father, and June never heard from them again. When her father finally dies seven years later (with a little help from June), she flees to New Salem, reunites with her sisters (who, for some reason, haven’t spoken to each other in a long time) and, naturally, becomes involved in the suffrage movement. In this alternate version of 19th century America, though, witches are real and still widely feared, and when June and her sisters, Bella and Agnes, accidentally bring witchcraft back into the world to empower women and the disenfranchised, they find themselves at war with the government of New Salem. There’s June, who’s young and angry and frightened and so desperate to be with her sisters; middle sister, Agnes, the beauty who’s tried to cut herself off from her desire to mother the world until motherhood comes knocking on her door; and eldest sister, Bella, a scholarly and shy librarian who’s hiding some demons of her own after their father sent her away to school. This novel had so much in it that I love, and explored so many different things, that I don’t really know what to say about it other than that you need to pick it up and read it. There are so many quotes from this book that I would gladly have tattooed on my forehead. There were two things I particularly loved, however. Firstly, I loved that this is a novel of witchcraft with family at its centre. You’d think witchcraft and covens would create dozens and dozens of stories centred on sisterhoods, and yet so many witchcraft stories are overtaken by romance. The Once and Future Witches is a love story, but it’s a love story between three sisters who are discovering each other again and, in so doing, finally discovering themselves. There were still two romances in the novel that I loved – a sapphic romance that was my everything, and another romance I so appreciated because Harrow wrote a woman who was still allowed to be desirable while pregnant, which I don’t think we see enough – but they worked so well because they didn’t take over the story, and it’s ultimately the relationship between June, Agnes a...
Andrea J. Santa Mari
Amazing! One of the best witch stories I've read. Suffragette Witches and queer POC representation, strongly feminist, historical and trauma informed.
Amanda H.
Ok. Great book to read right now for countless reasons. I just finished reading, and I’m tempted to just circle back to the beginning and start again so I can keep that wonderful-book-feeling going. I’ll try to keep this short, but the book is so well written and carefully crafted and the characters are vibrant. Then you have the subject matter just burning off the page; witches, subjugation, love is love, senseless prejudice, women’s rights, magic. I was feeling a lot of things and shooing away all interruptions until I finished. It’s taken an immediate place on the favorites bookshelf and please excuse me while I go recommend this to anybody and everybody who will listen.
I loved this author’s first book, and was very excited to read this one. The good: I love the concept and the characters are well drawn and delightfully diverse. The bad (and it’s very bad): a third of the way in, the story completely falters and the plot is lost. In fact, I found myself skipping entire pages out of boredom, and not missing anything important plot-wise. This book could’ve been 75 pages shorter and perfect. The author has a wonderful voice and a good ear for dialogue but those strengths cannot rescue a novel that completely loses the plot midway through. Could’ve been great. As is, it’s merely mediocre.