2 Dec 2022

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES by Alix E. Harrow

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: Alix E. Harrow
Series: N/A
Source: Audible
Publisher: Redhook
Publication Date: October 13, 2020

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.
Content Warning: Child abuse, both physical and psychological; parental death; arrest and imprisonment; mind control; pregnancy and childbirth, including forced hospitalization; abortion; racism; sexism; homophobia, both external and internalized; threat of sexual assault, averted; torture (mostly off-the-page, but alluded to); execution (attempted); child abandonment; major character death.

Like many reviews, I think this could have been shorter and that would have made it better. But I did really enjoy this! I loved the addition of the spells throughout and the topical conversations that we've been having for hundreds of years. This book beautifully merges magic and feminism - looking at the witch burnings and suffrage movement through a different lens, but one that still feels as though we've seen it before.

That aside, what a fantastic story! This is essentially a cross-cultural, queer, feminist reimagining of all things Grimm and fairytale, blending together multiple traditions in an alternate historical setting as three sisters battle the draconian patriarchy with witchcraft. I loved it, and I was delighted to see a trans character included too.

Highly recommend if you have time and don't mind a long story.

Have you read this series? What was your favourite part?

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