Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Title: The Year of the Witching
Author: Alexis Henderson
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Ace

Pages: 368
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A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the 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 realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

Earlier this summer I read The Year of the Witching and immediately became obsessed! Imagine my dismay when I found this review sitting in my drafts! How will everyone know how incredible this book is if I don't yell about it? 

The Year of the Witching is what I'd hoped Agnes At the End of the World would be - a dark and terrifying cult fantasy with an incredible, feminist heroine and amazing world building. First of all, Immanuelle is a fascinating main character. Her backstory is heart-wrenching and she was highly relatable, but not in a Mary Sue kind of way. Simply put, I loved her. I also loved the Prophet's son, Ezra, and their unlikely relationship. The Prophet, by the way, it a truly disgusting and creepy villain. 

Speaking of creepy, the absolute best thing about this story is the atmosphere. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but this one certainly sets the mood. It's dark and tense and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The scares in this book are slow and unsettling and I could not get enough of it. The world building is so good, I felt like I was right in the middle of Bethel. 

There was truly nothing I didn't love about The Year of the Witching other than that it ended too soon. I'm really hoping for a sequel, but I can't wait to read whatever she writes next in any case. Alexis Henderson is definitely on my auto-buy list!