Read This: The Once and Future Witches

By Alix E. Harrow
Redhook Books/Orbit
Hachette Book Group

During the first few months of the pandemic, I’d pick up books that I probably would have enjoyed in normal circumstances and I couldn’t make the words on the page mean anything interesting or relevant. 

Then around mid-August, I discovered Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and then N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (as an audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Robin Miles). I was back. 

Not everything I’ve read in the interim was as fabulous as those two novels, but I was able to enjoy reading (and the occasional audiobook) more than I had in months. 

Another book that delighted me was Alix Harrow’s Ten Thousand Doors of January.  The characters and concept immediately hooked me, and I can recommend the book to anyone who likes portal fantasy. I read everything I could find by Harrow (she has some great short fiction available online), but I really waited for her next novel breathlessly, based on the title alone: The Once and Future Witches. It came out in October of 2020.

I’m a huge fan of Arthurian legend reboots, and the teasers I read about the novel also promised there would be suffragists. And naturally, with that title, there had to be witches.

I read it. I loved it. It might just be my perfect book. Feminist witches? Fascinating characters to love and hate? A plot that zips right along? Terrific use of language deployed in the service of all of the above?

I’m thrilled to enjoy reading again. I’d hate to imagine not appreciating this novel as much as it deserved. For me, the book succeeded so well that I chose it as my study book for the DIY MFA Writer Igniter Challenge

If you like your fantasy liberally spiced with alternate history and a feminist bent, you really should pick this one up.

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