Posted in Fantasy, Witches, Women's Fiction

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Superficially, the story is as old as time. Three sisters are born in a rural area, living a fairly meager existence. Their mother dies, their father becomes cruel and only their wise grandmother gives them love. When grandmother dies, the two older sisters are shipped off, leaving the youngest to deal with her abusive father. They lose touch with each other and the youngest becomes feral and angry. She assumes she’s been abandoned by her sisters.

The three sisters learn words and charms from their grandmother. These are simple things, rhymes that make life just a little easier. When the three woman become adults, these charms are mostly forgotten. Then one day, evil comes to the town of New Salem and the women are pulled together by forces they barely knew existed. Soon, they are at the center of a revolution.

As the novel progresses, it becomes apparent that this is so much more than a story about three witches. This is a novel about the oppression of women by men (and sometimes other women). The Once and Future Witches is both fantasy and reality. Although the novel is set in a fictional past, it is thoroughly modern. Just substitute shirtwaist factories and suffrage with economic justice, reproductive rights and domestic violence.

The writing is very clever and often made think, look twice at what I just read or smile. The spells are drawn from fairy tales and childhood nursery rhymes, which were very relatable and simple. No need for eye of newt, cauldrons or memorizing complicated spells. These were so simple, any woman could do them. And that was just the point. ANY woman could rise above, be more, reach her full potential, could be a witch.

It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the layers of meaning. This book won The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2021, given by the British Fantasy Society.

Rating: 5 Stars, Grade A+

Posted in Mystery, Witches

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Publication Info: Published April 30, 2019 by Doubleday. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Helen and Nate decide to give up their hectic suburban lives and move to forty-four undeveloped acres in Vermont. There they live in a dilapidated trailer while building their dream home. Helen had some building experience, having worked with her father doing construction jobs when she was a child. Nate made up for his lack of experience with focused enthusiasm.

They were both delighted and surprised with the final purchase price of their property, well below what they expected to pay. They soon learned that the previous owner was anxious to sell after his wife drowned in the bog on the land. The property was also rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Hattie, a witch who was hanged several generations ago.

One of their neighbors was a troubled young girl, Olive, whose mother vanished mysteriously. Olive’s father was too enmeshed in grief to pay much attention to his daughter, so Olive was left to wander the neighbors property looking for “Hattie’s Treasure”, which her mother also wanted to find. Olive was determined to scare the new owners away by pretending to haunt them. This only got Helen more interested in the land’s spooky history. She was sure Hattie was guiding her toward objects from the past and the spirit wanted her to incorporate them into the house. As more artifacts are built into their home, Helen sees more ghosts. Nate, too, is chasing an elusive white deer with a variety of gadgets. But is the white deer real or one of Hattie’s incarnations?

Comments: The Invited was an interesting twist on a haunted house story. The house is new and becomes increasingly haunted as it is built. This is not a horror tale determined to shock the reader, but rather a much more gentle story. That’s the kind of ghost story I like.

Recommended for readers of Mysteries, Paranormal Fiction and stories about ghosts and witches.

My Rating: 4 STARS