The Once and Future Witches - Alix E Harrow

When Juniper finally escapes the confines of an abusive paternal home she seeks out solace in New Salem. Little does she know her estranged sisters are also living there trying to make ends meet but Juniper's arrival awakens a magical underworld none of them could have anticipated, and now they must do everything to protect.

Orbit kindly sent me a review copy of this way back in the year but with all the hype surrounding its publication I couldn't hold off reading it any longer. This was published 13th October and made the perfect witchy read for Halloween.

When a novel sets up characters in their own chapters at the start to give them a personality and background without explaining over several chapters I usually tune out. I think it's a cheap way to give us details of a character by listing the ways they are X, Y, and Z without giving us examples in actual story narrative. However, Harrow beautifully gave a profile of each of the three sisters without doing this, she introduced well-rounded characters that still had an air of mystery and immediately connected to the reader by showing the vulnerabilities of them without each other and their potential strength. Juniper, Agnes and Bella were some of the best characters I read this year and whilst they had their flawed aspects the redemption arcs and growth for each made for a gratifying end.

This was my first Alix E Harrow novel and her writing was so outstandingly beautiful I cannot wait to pick up her previous novel 'The Ten Thousand Doors of January'. Throughout this novel, however, I was captivated by the imagery that puts you right in the middle of New Salem with the sisters and the emotional strings Harrow plucks make us feel a part of their journey. Due to this I was so invested in the whole story, every twist and turn was happening to me at the same time as them and (spoiler, potentially) I was crying by the end. I wouldn't describe this as emotionally draining but I was emotionally invested so I was constantly worried for the characters, but to me, this just shows how amazing Harrow's writing it.

I would love to see more of these characters but the ending was perfect and closing it there wouldn't be terrible. In its own little bubble of perfectness 'The Once and Future Witches' has been a magical (pun intended) read.

Even if you don't like fantasy novels, you need to pick this up. It isn't just about witches, it's about overthrowing patriarchy and the importance of sisterhood, friendships and trust - something everyone needs a bit of!

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