Audiobook Review: The Once and Future Witches

Published October 13th 2020 

Author: Alix E. Harrow

Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Audiobook Length: 16 hours 3 minutes

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.

The Once and Future Witches took me a few tries to get into before I ended up completing it. Once I finally got into it, then I found myself enjoying it, but it was still a slower start for me to warm up to this tale. This story follows the three Eastwood sisters, Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper on their quest to unite other witches beginning in New Salem, 1893. Each sister is going through their own journey in this novel as they try to deal with the world around them and their past traumas along with the togetherness of their common sisterhood goal.

James Juniper Eastwood is the youngest of the three at 17-years-old and wanted for murder. Juniper has a lot of rage and recklessness due to her past and her journey is clear that it involves learning to move beyond the hate. In the middle is Agnes Amaranth Eastwood, the strongest one with the desire to avoid connecting and getting hurt again. The oldest is Beatrice (Bella) Belladonna, who is the smartest of the three, a librarian, and anxious about the world around her. From the start, each sister has their own lesson to learn as the story moves forward. I both enjoyed this aspect and did not at the same time as it was nice to have clear goals in mind, but I wish it came out more organically. The sisters themselves were also very formulaic, at first, where they each seemed to fit into a certain character box. This along with the jumping between characters were my roadblocks when I initially began this story, and I am glad that it got better as the story moved forward.

I enjoyed that this story became a lot more than I initially expected as it kept me interested until the end. There are multiple short-stories, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales throughout that all play a role in the witchcraft in the story. These were interesting additions as I was curious how each would weave together to the main story. The three sisters’ stories all went together nicely as none of them were perfect and they were all complex. The pacing of the story is very slow, which played nicely into the atmospheric feel, but there were times where it felt a little too slow for my taste. Overall, this was an interesting story, but it may not be one that I reread in the future.

3 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Once and Future Witches

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