This dark and bloody debut novel is not to be missed for readers who love atmospheric stories of fantasy, feminism, and witchcraft. The Year of the Witching is set in a fantastical world like our own in an era reminiscent of the 1800’s. Alexis Henderson has authored a story of complex blood ties, magic, romance, adventure, and a scathing examination of patriarchy, race, and racism.
Immanuelle Moore, a young, quiet, secretly bookish shepherd has never fit in to her puritanical, hyper religious society called Bethel. She is an orphan who lives with her extended family who loves her, but the memory of her mother’s actions always hangs over her head.
Her mother sought revenge for a horrible and unjust crime committed against the man she loved, and entwined Immanuelle’s fate with that revenge with help from the coven of witches that live in the Darkwood, which are strictly prohibited for residents of Bethel. One night, Immanuelle’s ram runs into the woods, she chases after it, and everyone’s world is turned upside down.
This is an intensely dark and gruesome novel that felt almost impossible to put down. It is brimming with feminist awakenings of righteous anger at violent and patriarchal societies, like Miriam Toews’ Women Talking, and the theme of persecution of women’s independence and desires through punishment of witchcraft like in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
The dark magic alongside the terrifying autocracy of the intense religion she lives in is truly gripping. Immanuelle’s pull to the dark woods and her inner conflicts is deeply examined, and her growth as a character is astonishing. She cares deeply about her family, her friends, and fighting for true social and interpersonal justice. I highly recommend this book if you like character driven novels – Immanuelle is a character that stayed with me long after I finished the last page.
The Year of the Witching is a perfect Halloween read, but ideal for any time for witchy readers!
— Jackie M.