Alexis Henderson will deliver all the witch and dark magic vibes in the summer. The Year of the Witching is atmospheric. A story about patriarchy, sexism, and the sacrifices of women. Keep reading this book review to find out how much I enjoyed The Year of the Witching.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: abuse, rape, pedophilia
I’m a huge fan of witches. Give me all the dark magic, witches confronting patriarchy. The Year of the Witching‘s has a terrifying setting – this rigid puritanical setting where faith is used to make excuses for women’s exploitation and punishment. I have seen a few people comparing it to The Handmaid’s Tale and I can absolutely see the comparison. It’s one of those societies of self-policing, of nowhere being safe from prying eyes, and a mixture of conviction and eager hands ready to build pyres.
The setting was so powerfully done and it was more complex than just an awfully sexist and dangerous society. We were able to see the evolution of Immanuelle’s character as the book progresses. The ways that this society, and a lot of other contemporary societies, give women the false belief in a perfect woman. A woman who will be able to live, if she just does the right thing, without reproach and in safety. When in reality, that society puts their inadequacies, desires, and burdens on their shoulders. It’s a culture of fear and persecution – of punishments and blood.
Besides the excellent and detailed world building, I loved watching Immanuelle evolve as a character. To realize that no matter how hard we try to be the image of perfection, of holiness, of pureness, we cannot attain it. She lives in a society built by men, for men, and is enforced through silence and complicity. Not only does Immanuelle have to reckon with her own history of her family, their skeletons and their own betrayals, but also her own feelings. Once we tip over the jar, expose the darkened corners to our curious glances, we cannot put the lid back on.
The Year of the Witching is bewitching, atmospheric, and terrifying at once. It’s a story of revenge and punishment. About agency and bravery. Find The Year of the Witching on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.