Release Date: July 21st 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law. Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy.
The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.
But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her . . .
The Year of the Witching is the dark and compelling tale of the town of Bethel, a religious community in which the Prophet’s word is law. Immanuelle does her best to follow the town rules, but she is always looked on as the daughter of a forbidden relationship between her mother and an outsider. When Immanuelle ends up in the Darkwood and is gifted the diary of her mother, she unleashes a great threat on Bethel and to stop it she must learn the dark truths behind the Church and its history.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s exactly the kind of book that hooks you from the very beginning and I did not want to put this book down. Henderson has created such a fascinating world and this book is full of beautiful writing and a tense, uneasy atmosphere. It’s an intense story and it’s the perfect read for a dark autumn evening. I’ve seen this book described as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale meets Salem’ and I don’t think I could sum it up any better myself.
The story is well paced, giving the reader a chance to understand the world and religion of Bethel. I really liked the characters – Immanuelle is a great protagonist, growing from a meek young woman just hoping to blend into the background to someone strong and powerful, standing up for what she believes in. I similarly liked Ezra and Leah, I thought they were both really interesting and well fleshed out. The Year of the Witching is a very impressive debut novel and I can’t wait to see what Alexis Henderson writes next.
This feminist tale is an addictive read and I ended up reading it in a single day. I particularly loved the dark horror moments in the Darkwood, when Immanuelle comes face to face with the legendary witches. This is a brilliantly captivating tale and one I would highly recommend. The Year of the Witching will have you on the edge of your seat, and almost certainly reading past your bedtime.