The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Rate: 5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers)

Harrow delivers a winding, beautiful, and heart-wrenching story that is easily one of my favorite reads of 2020. One of the key aspects that stood out to me was that while there are love interests in The Once and Future Witches, the real focal point of this story revolves around the bond between sisters. Think of a much darker, grim twist on Frozen‘s ending. Yes, these sisters’ relationships have been rocked to the core due to their father’s toxic manipulation and lies, however we see the pain and healing of their friendship, and of forgiveness throughout this tear inducing book. The general outline of the witches’ backstory is fascinating, and I genuinely loved Harrow’s decision to place the story in a time period where women were fighting for the right to vote. I recently read The Woman’s Hour, which focused on the fight surrounding Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, but also delved into the various parties at play. I couldn’t help but draw correlations between June’s aggressive tactics and The National Woman’s Party, especially as they both split from their more traditional and reserved predecessors. 

While all of Harrow’s characters were dynamic and unique, the villain she crafted was one of the more unique I’ve read in recent literature. Gideon Hill belies his weak and drab appearance to ultimately become a foe that seems insurmountable. This key ingredient, when brewed with high stakes politics along with a heavy dose of sexism and racism make for quite the suspenseful potion. 

I love when authors take existing rhymes or folktales and give them new life such as in The Witcher. Throughout The Once and Future Witches these familiar stories take center stage as the vessel for hidden spells. Each chapter opens up with a rhyme/spell that will be influential in the following text. Folk stories that contain an unexpected twist to keep them fresh are randomly and effortlessly interspersed within the story. Overall, this brilliant story of sisterhood, discovery, and magic that Harrow wove intricately together, inspired so many varied emotions, but in short: I cried, I laughed, I fretted and I stressed. The Once and Future Witches should occupy a prominent position on all TBR lists immediately.  

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)

  • What happened to the locket with June burned? Is that why June heard Moma Mags speaking support to her when she was burning? Did June ever tell her sisters about the locket?
  • What happened to June’s body after the burning? 
  • I found it interesting that Harrow didn’t include guns in her story.
  • The library burning induced physical hurt. Ok. I’m being dramatic but just think about all that knowledge lost! 
  • What would have happened had June released Hill’s familiar from his iron collar?
  • Did the three spirits help Bella resurrect some of the library? I know she said they left her edits but did they communicate further?
  • What does witchcraft look like around the world? Was it banished everywhere?
  • Did women get the vote?


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