The Once and Future Witches is very grounded in our real, recognisable world. It took no effort to slip into this story and immediately know what was going on. It left me free to embrace these sisters and start to learn everything about them. Bella, Agnes, and Juniper; the Crone, the Mother, and the Maiden; the will, the words, and the way. There’s so much overlap; stories on top of stories, spells over spells, contrasting and contradicting histories and futures. Nothing is certain, and everything is possible. There’s just so much information and so much to appreciate.
Before The Once and Future Witches, I had only read the Fractured Fables series by Harrow. I really enjoyed these well-written novellas; however, they did nothing to prepare me for this beautiful, heartbreaking piece of work. The closer I got to the end, the less I wanted to read. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what this narrative was building to, and I definitely didn’t want to finish the story.
I couldn’t believe how much ground was covered here. There is no doubt The Once and Future Witches is set in the past, but it sadly mirrors our modern world much too closely for comfort. The constant undertone of inequality (gender, race, sexuality, criminal justice, and wealth, to name only a few examples) that drives the narrative makes this story believable and relatable despite the magic. The extreme prejudice, hatred, and violence these women face is horrific and, sadly, not surprising.
With so much to love about The Once and Future Witches, it’s hard not to discuss every single component. I would be doing this story a disservice, though, if I didn’t applaud the slow, subtle build of magic and mention how much love I have for these sisters. With a rich, complex history that is teased out with time, it’s impossible to deny what they each brought to the narrative to make it a truly unforgettable story. Betrayal, regret, even fear and hatred – we start with a very shaky foundation that crumbles with time and seems incapable of repair. Yet, this uncertain and tentative bond is truly, breathtakingly, beautiful to behold, and I could not predict the ways in which it would develop, shatter, and change over time.
I’m already looking forward to rereading The Once and Future Witches and could not recommend it more highly. In the meantime, I’ll be here, adding all of Harrow’s books to my TBR and auto-buying every new release.