Title: The Year of the Witching
Author: Alexis Henderson
Publisher: Bantam Press
Audience: Adult (But could be Young Adult)
Taken from Goodreads
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy.
The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.
But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by 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 realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her . . .
I wasn’t sure what to expect heading into The Year of the Witching as while it is marketed as horror, I have seen lots of reviews saying that it wasn’t. After finishing it, I have to say that I agree with the other reviewers; there wasn’t enough horror. I wanted The Year of the Witching to have a lot more horror content, as to me, it felt like a typical YA/Adult witchy fantasy with some darker elements. I also wanted a different more dramatic ending to the Year of the Witching, but I can see why Alexis Henderson ended it the way that she did.
The Year of the Witching is set around a religious sect called Bethel, within which they worship the Father and follow a Prophet. Surrounding Bethel is the Darkwood, the home of Lilith. Anyone who goes into the Darkwood is either never seen again or goes mad. There is some darker content surrounding the town, as Bethel feels more like the home of a cult, because it is a patriarchal society, where the men have multiple wives, and all women are branded when they get married. There are some trigger warning that come with The Year of the Witching, so please do check them out before reading. I will link the book trigger warnings website at the bottom.
While I liked the character of Immanuelle, I found her to be a little two-dimensional. I wanted more character growth from her, and to see her develop more. The other characters in The Year of the Witching did have developed enough personalities, but it was hard to understand their motivation as it felt as if there was missing information and background. I think there was meant to be a romance within The Year of the Witching, but I didn’t feel it until the last possible moment. I’m not sure if that is due to me not connecting to the characters or if Alexis Henderson intentionally wrote that way.
One thing that I did love within The Year of the Witching was Alexis Henderson’s writing style. Her writing style flowed nicely and added to the story. It didn’t feel overdramatic, and the story didn’t feel overwritten, which is what I have found sometimes happens in a debut novel. If I could have added anything to the book itself, I would have loved to have seen a map, as it did get a little bit confusing as to where Immanuelle was at different points, this would have just enhanced my reading experience.
Overall, I liked reading The Year of the Witching, but I just wanted more from it. I will definitely pick up Alexis Hendersons next book when it is released. If you like reading witchy based fantasy, then I think that you would enjoy reading this, if you go in not thinking that it is a horror.
Buy The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson: Bookshop.org
Book Trigger Warnings: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson