The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

‘That’s all magic is, really: the space between what you have and what you need.’

Once upon a time, there were three Eastwood sisters: Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper. They lived in New Salem in 1893 when witching existed in memories, when the only power that women could seek was through the right to vote. The sisters joined the suffragists, and they also searched for the keys to power than women once held through witching. Charms and nursery rhymes are a start, and they hold more power than most people know.

The sisters represent three female archetypes: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Each have different perspectives and different powers. During their search, the sisters find powerful allies and dangerous enemies and they also find ways to bridge the misunderstanding that exists between them. History holds knowledge, hope, and hurt, and many wish to maintain the status quo. To obtain the magic they need, Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper need to work together and with others. It will not be easy: there are deep divisions and suspicions within the community and witchcraft is seen as dangerous by many – especially by those men who stand to lose their absolute power.

Battle is joined and not all will survive.

‘The Salem College archives include several hundred trunks full of records relating to the witch-trials of the purges, and Beatrice Belladonna has read most of them. She knows that history digs a shallow grave, and that the past is always waiting to rise again.’

I picked up this novel after reading ‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’. I loved the evocative storytelling and powerful imagery in both novels. A book to reread.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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