Review – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches is a heavily character based story that was hard for me to read because of the flowery, but also ‘overdone’ writing with too many hyphens, through which the actual story got a bit lost. Only 2 stars from me.

I didn’t feel like writing a synopsis, as I don’t think I’m able to summarize it the right way and my feelings might spill through. So here is the goodreads synopsis:

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.

I read this book and wrote this review way back in April, but that is when blogging started to feel like a chore so I never posted it. I’m back in the mood to write reviews and post them here (though, don’t expect me to be consistent) so when I found this one again, I thought I would share it.

“Behind every witch is a woman wronged.”

This story felt very slow from the start, but it was still intriguing. I could already tell that this would heavily be focusing on the characters. I’m having a hard time keeping the three sisters apart though. There is Agnes Amaranth, Beatrice Belladonna and James Juniper. Apparently, they have some bad history and have been estranged for 7 years and are now coming into each other’s paths again in New-Salem. The characters do have some interesting traits, but I didn’t find myself being truly invested in them. I felt more like an outside looking in on their lives, but not experiencing it in the way I want when I read a story.

The prose was a bit too overdone for me with way too many adjectives and hyphens. The actual story got a bit lost in its writing. I prefer my stories to be told in a more direct manner, so the writing doesn’t distract me from what is actually going on.

About a third of the way through, things actually started to pick up a bit. I expected a bit more magic and for the story to be more whimsical, but it is more a manifestation for woman’s rights. It became a bit boring to me again about halfway through. Even though I really enjoy character driven stories, I feel like I definitely also need a strong plot with a bit more action here and there. In this book the pacing felt a bit weird. It was kind of slow throughout the whole story. It picked up a bit a third through the book, but then it gradually slowed again and that is when I noticed that the pacing is off for me. It didn’t manage to keep me interested. The timeline was hard to keep track of for me as well. The story went on really fast with a lot of time skips where I couldn’t immediately grasp how much time had gone by.

I like the chapter intro’s as they give a little sneak peak of what spell is going to be used in the plot. I also like how they are based on fairy tales and how they all are a bit twisted to a more feminine version.

I saw that a lot of people really enjoyed this story and I can definitely see why, but I am not the target audience for this type of slow book with not much else going on than the emancipation of women. I had The Ten Thousand Doors of January on my TBR, but now I don’t think I will be reading it anytime soon (but let me know if you did enjoy this more than The Once and Future Witches).



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