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 Apocalyptic Fiction, Best Sellers, Fantasy

Year One by Nora Roberts (Chronicles of The One, #1)

Publication Info: Published December 5, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. I read the hardback edition, purchased from a local used book store, 2nd & Charles. Other editions available.

Summary: A man vacationing with his family in Scotland shoots a pheasant. It falls into the center of a stone circle, spilling blood and awakening ancient magicks. Shortly afterward, a virus dubbed The Doom, begins to spread, infecting others as the family members fly back home. This virus is virulent and there is no cure. Within months the world’s population is decimated, governments collapse and anarchy arises.

There are some survivors, many of whom have latent talents from old bloodlines. Some people with faerie blood grow wings. Practicing witches find their minimal skills are now exceptional. There are sorcerers, elves and dryads. But not all of the supernaturals follow the good and the light. There are those who have turned to the dark and wish to destroy everything that is good. The few regular humans who survived the plague, are caught in the crossfire and must choose sides.

The story centers on a few of the supernatural and human survivors, most of whom are good. They try to pick up the pieces of society and rebuild a community. When they are savagely attacked, one woman in their group must be protected at all costs, for she bears the savior.

Comments: I am not generally a Nora Roberts fan. I’ve tried several of her books over the decades and they just didn’t do anything for me. They were… meh. But when I read about this apocalyptic fantasy series, I decided to give it a try.

At 419 pages, it took me three days to read, but I actually looked forward to picking it up again. That alone scored a few points. It’s not amazing literature by any means, but the story moves along and the characters are interesting enough. She does know how to write a readable story, even if it’s not particularly deep or insightful. The author has hit the New York Times best seller list 69 times to date, so she’s obviously hitting a chord with many readers. If not a full chord, Year One finally hit at least an intriguing note with me. I definitely plan on reading the next book in the series, Of Blood and Bone.

Recommended for readers of Apocalyptic Fiction, Best Sellers, and books dealing with magic and light fantasy.

My rating: 3.5 STARS