Book Review: “The Once and Future Witches” by Alix Harrow

It took me a little longer to read this book than I would have liked, but it’s finally done and I’ve got a few things to say about it.

First, this book is written in present tense. If you’re like me, and you’re not a super huge fan of present-tense narration, this book is not going to change your mind. There are some weird paragraphs that made me go back and read them twice (sometimes three times) before I understood what the author was trying to say, all because of the tense. I think the only book I’ve read in recent memory that I completed that was in present tense was The Hunger Games, and it’s been years since I read that book. Most of the time, I can’t get into the books and just put them down.

Second, the author loves parentheses. Every so often, the narration will say something, and then the author will come in with a new paragraph in parentheses and say something (that completely contradicts the previous paragraph). I’m sure it’s supposed to make the narrative seem more flowy and magical and different, but all it is is a pain to read. Like, please, just say what you mean. This book could have been fifty pages shorter if the author didn’t beat around the bush on so many things. Also, some of the descriptions made me roll my eyes, because they’re trying way too hard to seem magical or fancy and it’s just bothersome.

Third, the pacing is weird. I got to the 50% mark and thought it was over and done (completely forgetting that there’s a whole “big bad” that needs to be taken down – the villain is completely forgettable in the first half of the book for the most part) and then the sisters realize they haven’t taken down the villain yet. So then begins another round of sneaking and hiding and heists, and then you get to about 75% of the way and you’re tired of reading and just want it to be over with.

All that to say, I still did enjoy the book. Did I skim a few of the paragraphs because they didn’t interest me? Yes. Did it take away from my understanding of the book? No. But I don’t think this would be a book I would buy, simply because I can’t imagine trying to wade through all of the flowery language again. It’s a good book, but to me it’s not a great book. Which is why I’m giving this particular book a 3/5 star rating. It’s worth a read (especially if you like first-person narration). It’s fun seeing the rewritings of folk tales or nursery rhymes and understanding the “witching” power behind them, but sometimes I’m just in a mood to read something familiar.

Have you read The Once and Future Witches? What did you think of the parentheses? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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