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‘The Year of the Witching’ is a Must-Read Dark Fantasy – Book Review

In Bethel, whatever the Prophet says is law. Immanuelle simply living and existing is blasphemy. Due to her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race, Immanuelle’s family was cast into disgrace. Therefore, Immanuelle does what she can to lead a life of submission by worshipping the Father and following Holy Protocol. Immanuelle must conform like all of the other women in the settlement. 

But of course, much of that is easier said than done. After being lured to the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel, the very same place where the first Prophet chased and killed four powerful witches, the spirits of the witches still remain. They bestow a gift upon her – the diary of her deceased mother. Curious and fascinated by the secrets her mother penned in the diary, Immanuelle is at first confused as to why her mother consorted with the witches. However, the more she reads, the more she realizes that the Church and the history behind it is not as it seems. The true threat to Bethel is its own darkness.

The Year of the Witching - Cover
Cover for The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Alexis Henderson’s debut novel, The Year of the Witching is a must-read. Smartly written, it combines dark fantasy elements with a pointed look at racism, patriarchy and segregation. Henderson brilliantly blends the elements of this book in a story that is intriguing and unlike any I’ve read before. While it of course has fantasy elements, it also includes mystery which I highly enjoyed. While some parts of the book are a slow burn, it worked well within the context of the specific chapters or parts that were happening in the novel. It served to build up that tension, to make the reader feel uneasy as they await to know more secrets about Bethel, about the life of Immanuelle’s mother and secrets about the Prophet himself. 

In addition, there is a horror vibe that can be found within Henderson’s novel that is refreshing. There is a lot of darkness and some gore, but it’s never too much or overkill. It is precisely measured for each situation; another testament to Henderson’s brilliant writing.  There is a perfect balance between the horror, fantasy and the very real elements that impact Immanuelle’s life living in Bethel. Despite the book being in the fantasy-genre, the very real themes throughout are ones that many can identify with which grounds the book in reality.

Henderson’s debut novel truly has everything going for it. The Year of the Witching is a book that is profoundly smart and dark, and certainly deserving of being added to any TBR list that you have.

You can purchase The Year of the Witching from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and your local independent bookstore.

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