Title: The Year of the Witching
Author: Alexis Henderson
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy/Dystopian
Audience: Young Adult
Length: 368 pages
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Recommended for Fans of: The Grace Year, The Handmaid’s Tale, Salem, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Content Warnings: sexual assault
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.
This is a great debut that combines the dystopian, patriarchal societies of The Grace Year and The Handmaid’s Tale with the witchy horror of Salem and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In this puritanical society, witchcraft actually exists. The Year of the Witching addresses issues of gender, religion, and race, with people of color forced to live in the Outskirts.
Immanuelle has always been an outcast because she is the mixed-race orphan of disgraced parents, and she feels drawn to the forbidden Darkwood. When a series of plagues befall Bethel, Immanuelle realizes that she may be the key to stopping them.
This book is dark, atmospheric, and a little bit gory. The witches were downright creepy. The world building and character development was well done, and I especially liked Ezra’s character. The story follows a fairly typical arc for YA fantasy. I think the story could’ve been a bit longer because I had a few questions about some of the characters’ motivations toward the end and the world outside of Bethel.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the gifted eARC.