Did you fall in love with Alix E. Harrow’s THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY (US | UK) last year? If so, you don’t want to miss Book Riot’s cover reveal of THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES, Harrow’s new breathtaking tale of defiance, sisterhood and the right to vote set in an alternate version of late 1800s New England! Click over to get a peek at the beautiful cover designed by Lisa Marie Pompilio.
And to further whet your appetite, here’s an exclusive excerpt:
There’s no such thing as witches, but there used to be.
It used to be the air was so thick with magic you could taste it on your tongue like ash. Witches lurked in every tangled wood and waited at every midnight-crossroad with sharp-toothed smiles. They conversed with dragons on lonely mountaintops and rode rowan-wood brooms across full moons; they charmed the stars to dance beside them on the solstice and rode to battle with familiars at their heels. It used to be witches were wild as crows and fearless as foxes, because magic blazed bright and the night was theirs.
But then came the plague and the purges. The dragons were slain and the witches were burned and the night belonged to men with torches and crosses.
Witching isn’t all gone, of course. My grandmother, Mama Mags, says they can’t ever kill magic because it beats like a great red heartbeat on the other side of everything, that if you close your eyes you can feel it thrumming beneath the soles of your feet, thumpthumpthump. It’s just a lot better-behaved than it used to be.
Most respectable folk can’t even light a candle with witching, these days, but us poor folk still dabble here and there. Witch-blood runs thick in the sewers, the saying goes. Back home every mama teaches her daughters a few little charms to keep the soup-pot from boiling over or make the peonies bloom out of season. Every daddy teaches his sons how to spell ax-handles against breaking and rooftops against leaking.
Our daddy never taught us shit, except what a fox teaches chickens—how to run, how to tremble, how to outlive the bastard—and our mama died before she could teach us much of anything. But we had Mama Mags, our mother’s mother, and she didn’t fool around with soup-pots and flowers.
The preacher back home says it was God’s will that purged the witches from the world. He says women are sinful by nature and that magic in their hands turns naturally to rot and ruin, like the first witch Eve who poisoned the Garden and doomed mankind, like her daughters’ daughters who poisoned the world with the plague. He says the purges purified the earth and shepherded us into the modern era of Gatling guns and steamboats, and the Indians and Africans ought to be thanking us on their knees for freeing them from their own savage magics.
Mama Mags said that was horseshit, and that wickedness was like beauty: in the eye of the beholder. She said proper witching is just a conversation with that red heartbeat, which only ever takes three things: the will to listen to it, the words to speak with it, and the way to let it into the world. The will, the words, and the way.
She taught us everything important comes in threes: little pigs, billy goats gruff, chances to guess unguessable names. Sisters.
There were three of us Eastwood sisters, me and Agnes and Bella, so maybe they’ll tell our story like a witch-tale. Once upon a time, there were three sisters. Mags would like that, I think—she always said nobody paid enough attention to witch-tales and whatnot, the stories grannies tell their babies, the secret rhymes children chant among themselves, the songs women sing as they work.
Or maybe they won’t tell our story at all, because it isn’t finished yet. Maybe we’re just the very beginning, and all the fuss and mess we made was nothing but the first strike of the flint, the first shower of sparks.
There’s still no such thing as witches.
But there will be.
THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES hits shelves October 2020 and I can’t wait for you to read it!