The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

In this alternate, fantastical history, witches are real. Or, they were real. Now, women’s ability to do witching has been made illegal for women. While women can do magic, it is frowned upon, and the only thing they are allowed to do is little charms to help themselves with “women’s” or household work.

In 1893, James Juniper is on the run and ends up in New Salem, where her estranged sisters Beatrice Belladona and Agnes Amaranth reside (and yes, there is a reason for those names!). She soon finds a purpose and joins the local women’s rights movement – first interested in women’s suffrage, but wanting more. She wants to bring witching back. Agnes finds herself pregnant and is first hesitant to join the movement her sister wants to create in case she puts her baby in danger. Beatrice is an assistant librarian at the New Salem College, but has secretly been delving into research about women’s witching, and how to bring it back. Juniper’s sisters end up joining her cause when they see that the only way to have a positive future for women is to break away from the mainstream women’s rights movement and create their own – a group called The Sisters of Avalon. When they start to make public statements with their magic, they discover a dangerous enemy and unveil the history of witches, finding dangerous enemies and unexpected allies along the way.

There are many things I loved about this book. First, the feminism was intersectional. This book is not just about white women obtaining the vote, and also magic. This book addresses feminism for women of color and LGBTQ women as well. There are also multiple fairy tale retellings throughout the book, and they are woven into and relevant to the story itself. Additionally, I loved the emotional, bittersweet ending to this story. Langley-Adams Library has a physical copy of this book, but I also recommend the audiobook, which is available on Libby. The audiobook adds a musical, mystical quality to the story. 

Darcy Lepore
Library Director

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The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow