The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches


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 three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten 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 must 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.

Our Review

The Once and Future Witches is an epic and empowering read which had me hooked from the start.

“Heat hisses through her veins. An unnatural wind whips towards the center of the square. It smells like drying herbs and wild roses. Like magic.”

This book is the superpower of fairy tales! It is an incredible book with an emphasis on the power of female bonds.

“There is no such thing as witches, but there used to be.

It used to be the air was so thick with magic you could taste it on your tongue like ash. Witches lurked in every tangled wood and waited at every midnight-crossroad with sharp-toothed smiles. They conversed with dragons on lonely mountaintops and road rowan wood brooms across full moons; they charmed the stars to dance beside them on the solstice and rode to battle with familiars at their heels. It used to be witches were wild as crows and fearless as foxes because magic blazed bright and the night was theirs.

But then came the plague and the purges. The dragons were slain and the witches were burned and the night belonged to men with torches and crosses.”

In The Once and Future witches not only was magic gone from the world but also the power was firmly in the hands of the men.  All you needed for magic was the will, the words and the way but the will was often beaten down and broken and the ways and words were confined to spells for use around the home and hearth. The traditional domains of women.

Anyone who knows about fairy tales knows that three and witchcraft knows that three is often an important number. It is no coincidence that this book focuses on three sisters.

“James Juniper Eastwood was the youngest, with hair as ragged and black as crow feathers. She was the wildest of the three.”

Juniper is wanted for murder. A wildcard who has come to New Salem to join the budding suffragette movement and is burning with resentment at her sisters for abandoning her to their abusive father.

“Agnes Amaranth Eastwood was the middle sister, with hair as shining and black as a hawks eye. She was the strongest of the three, the one who knew how to work and keep working, tireless as the tide.

But on the spring equinox of 1895, she is weak.”

Agnes is in trouble and though she may not know it yet she needs her sister. If only she can see fit to forgive and forget the betrayals of the past.

“Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood was the oldest sister, with hair like owl feathers: soft and dark, streaked with early grey. She was the wisest of the three. The quiet one, the listening one, the one who knew the feel of a books spine in her palm and the weight of words in the air. But on the spring equinox of 1893, she is a fool.”

Bella also needs her sisters for a big battled ahead but can she count on them?

“The wayward sisters, hand in hand, Burned and bound, our stolen crown, But what is lost that can’t be found?”

I loved the way many of the spells and charms within the book were hidden in old fairy tales and nursery rhyme fragments, in oral storytelling, and other traditionally female domains. Disregarded by men because they were considered to be insignificant.

I loved the progression of the sisters throughout the book and the way the book both mirrored and destroyed the traditional fairy story trope.

“Once upon a time there were three sisters. They were born in a forgotten kingdom that smelled of honeysuckle and mud, where the Big Sandy ran wide and the sycamores shone white as knuckle-bones on the banks. The sister’s had no mother and a no-good father, but they had each other; it might have been enough.

But the sisters were banished from their kingdom, broken and scattered.”

The Once and Future Witches was an outstanding book.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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