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The Year of the Witching - cover

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Pub­li­ca­tion Date: 21 July 2020

Pub­lish­er: Ace

Genre: Para­nor­mal His­tor­i­cal Fiction

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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.

My Review

Juli­ette van der Molen brings a haunt­ing, lyri­cal voice to a lit­tle-known sto­ry from a dark chap­ter of his­to­ry in her lat­est poet­ry col­lec­tion, Con­fess: The Untold Sto­ry of Dorothy Good. Draw­ing on the life of four-year-old Dorothy Good, the youngest per­son accused and impris­oned dur­ing the 1692 Salem Witch Tri­als, the fear and trau­ma sur­round­ing this dis­turb­ing case is cap­tured in in Con­fess by Juli­ette van der Molen.

As a long­time friend of the author with­in the writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, I’ve always admired Juli­et­te’s abil­i­ty to con­jure rich emo­tion through poet­ic imagery. That tal­ent is on full dis­play in Con­fess, with spare yet evoca­tive lan­guage bring­ing this his­tor­i­cal tale to life. In each line, she evokes the con­fu­sion and pow­er­less­ness of a child caught up in events beyond her control.

in the woods i wan­der
long after all is for­got­ten,
my hair tan­gled in branch­es,
feet pressed into mud.
my cheek grazes wet moss
of a for­est that refus­es
to damn me and holds
me like no moth­er ever has before.

i am unab­solved
i am undone
i am all the ‘un’ things
until i am no one.

from “Untold,” in Con­fess by Juli­ette van der Molen

The col­lec­tion builds with a sense of omi­nous dread as the fren­zy of accu­sa­tions mounts. Van der Molen han­dles the sen­si­tive sub­ject mat­ter with care, keep­ing young Dorothy at the emo­tion­al cen­ter of the sto­ry. Vivid descrip­tions make the stakes pal­pa­ble, while brief flash­es of Dorothy’s fam­i­ly life and inner world offer glim­mers of light amidst the darkness.

While fic­tion­al­ized, it’s clear the poems are metic­u­lous­ly researched, with vivid peri­od details. Van der Molen notes this col­lec­tion was 14 years in the mak­ing, and the care and com­mit­ment shine through. For read­ers com­pelled by unpack­ing untold sto­ries from his­to­ry, Con­fess offers a mes­mer­iz­ing and haunt­ing poet­ic jour­ney back to colo­nial Salem. Those already famil­iar with van der Molen’s work will appre­ci­ate her sig­na­ture style, while new read­ers are in for a treat with this trans­port­ing collection.

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About the Author

Alex­is Hen­der­son is a spec­u­la­tive fic­tion writer with a pen­chant for dark fan­ta­sy, witch­craft, and cos­mic hor­ror. She grew up in one of America’s most haunt­ed cities, Savan­nah, Geor­gia, which instilled in her a life-long love of ghost sto­ries. When she doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, you can find her paint­ing or watch­ing hor­ror movies with her feline famil­iar. Cur­rent­ly, Alex­is resides in the sun-soaked marsh­land of Charleston, South Carolina.

Alexis Henderson


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