Do you ever read a book that you just can’t stop thinking about? That’s how I feel about The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. I was honestly a little nervous when I started this one. I knew it was about religion and as a Christian, I don’t particularly want to read books that trash what I believe. I also thought this was a horror story and that’s not typically a genre I like. Thankfully, I was SO wrong and ended up absolutely loving this book. I will continue to gush after the synopsis. This review will be spoiler free.
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.
- Rating- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Heat Level- 🔥🔥 (Sex is mentioned quite often but there is nothing graphic or explicit.)
The reasons why I love this book are why many people might not enjoy it. I’ll talk about what I mentioned above first; While this book centers around religion, Henderson has created her own unique concept. In my opinion, it seems like she was primarily influenced by Old Testament Judaism, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and Puritan Protestantism. The society that our main character, Immanuelle, lives in practices polygamy, animal sacrifice and strict lifestyle guidelines. If you’re looking for an anti-Christian story, this isn’t it. It’s simply anti-cult.
This book isn’t a horror story either; it’s honestly more fantasy. It’s very creepy and atmospheric but not scary, at least not to me. I would put it in the same genre as another favorite book of mine, House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. The stories aren’t alike but they definitely have a similar vibe. This also isn’t really a gory story but blood is mentioned a lot, there’s even a blood plague. I hate gore and nothing in this book bothered me but everyone has different tolerance levels. If you’re wanting a super scary and/or gory story, you’ll probably be disappointed with this one.
The Year of the Witching deals with quite a few heavy topics but the main ones are racism and sexism. I personally loved the way both of these aspects were handled. This book is described as a feminist story because Immanuel is a biracial woman and this is her journey to overcome the limits society has placed on her. I’ve seen some reviews that aren’t happy because Immanuel does have a male love interest who helps her repeatedly and they believe that takes away from the feminist storyline. They’re entitled to that opinion but I disagree and I ADORED the romantic subplot.
I loved everything about this book from the writing, to the characters, to the storyline. This was Henderson’s debut release and it was so amazing that I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future. There will be a sequel to this book, The Dawn of the Coven, and I will be buying it on release.
If you like creepy books that are beautifully written, check this one out. I seriously can’t recommend it enough. Does it sound like one you’d like? Let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!