The Year of the Witching
Books | Fiction / Horror
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.
Community ReviewsSee all
"CW: some gore, SA, childbirth The Year of the Witching is officially the book I will recommend to young people interested in getting into #horror or #darkfantasy 🌞The protagonist, Immanuelle, is a 16-year-old girl from a secluded religious community called Bethel. The world of this novel resembles our Puritan past but, in this imagining, magic and prophecy are very much real, and witches are lurking in the woods. 🔥Immanuelle was born out of wedlock to a girl who ran to the Darkwood to avoid marrying the Prophet. Her mother returned to give birth, dying in childbirth. Her father, one of the Black outcasts living at the margins of Bethelen society, was sentenced to burning for the sin of adultery. 📔Like all Bethelens, Immanuelle is committed to the settlement's peculiar faith, but she does not accept things as uncritically as most of her neighbors. What's more, she begins to feel a strange pull toward the Darkwood and the secrets her mother left there. 🩸When strange plagues begin to strike Bethel, Immanuelle suspects that it has something to do with her and her cursed birth. She finds an unlikely ally in Ezra, the Prophet's son and heir, who seems heretically skeptical of their religion. 🫀Things I loved: Henderson captures the atmosphere of Bethel and the Darkwood beautifully. Like any good gothic novel, the setting is as much of a character as any of the actual people. The witches are deliciously monstrous 💀Things that could have been better: The budding relationship between Immanuelle and Ezra is sweet, but I'd have liked to have seen more character development from both of them. I'm left with so many questions about the witches' origins, the nature of the world both inside and outside of Bethel, and how/why magic works in this world I'm hoping that the sequel (the Dawn of the Coven, release date tbd) will see more growth from the characters and more detail about the world's workings, because I will DEFINITELY be reading it. This book wasn't perfect, but man did it suck me in"
"TW: child r*pe, domestic violence, violence, gore, religious leaders using power to abuse<br/><br/>“True evil... wore the skin of good men. It uttered prayers, not curses. It feigned mercy where there was only malice. It studied scriptures only to spit out lies.”<br/><br/>“This man who’d used his lies to make himself a martyr he thought he was the one who made the true sacrifice. But he couldn’t be more wrong. It was not the prophet who bore Bethel, bound to his back like a millstone. It was all of the innocent girls and women... who suffered and died at the hands of men who exploited them. They were Bethel’s sacrifice. They were the bones upon which the church was built.”<br/><br/>I loved some of this book and wasn’t crazy about other parts, but overall, especially for a debut, I’m giving this 4 stars.<br/><br/>Absolutely worth the read. I wish Immanuelle had been fiercer, but I did still appreciate her strength and conviction. I LOVED the opening scene, it was probably my favorite in the whole book. I wasn’t happy with the ending, but it’s left me incredibly curious about what the next book could possibly be about."
"DNF a quarter of the way through. I couldn't get over the depiction of the witches. I can tell that the author wants them to be scary, but they are just victims of this misogynistic society. It also seemed kind of lesbophobic to me. The witches are daughters of the "evil" deity, but what did the Lovers do other than be lesbians? Are lesbians supposed to be scary? I hope that later in the book the witches are humanized and get justice, but I'm doubtful and it's not worth my time to find out. "