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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

Alex­is Hen­der­son­’s debut nov­el The Year of the Witch­ing imme­di­ate­ly pulls you into its omi­nous setting—the rigid, puri­tan­i­cal soci­ety of Bethel where con­for­mi­ty is para­mount and Immanuelle Moore’s mere exis­tence is con­sid­ered blas­phe­my. After Immanuelle ven­tures into the for­bid­den Dark­wood and uncov­ers her moth­er’s past deal­ings with witch­es, she begins ques­tion­ing the dark­ness lurk­ing with­in her set­tle­men­t’s pious veneer.

I was excit­ed to receive a copy of this book through a Goodreads review (are you fol­low­ing me there yet?). It had been on my radar since I stum­bled across an ear­ly men­tion of the nov­el, and I’m rarely one to turn down a witchy read (like Saman­tha Grosser’s Web of Wit series)! 

Through­out the sto­ry, Hen­der­son slow­ly reveals the hor­rors buried beneath Bethel’s sur­face. Nat­u­ral­ly, the world with­in the book often turns to mag­ick as one of these hor­rors. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the world with­in the book fre­quent­ly turns to mag­ick as one of these hor­rors. One char­ac­ter refers to witch­craft accordingly: 

Once a sig­il is made and a curse is cast, it’s done…the pow­er that mark was made to rep­re­sent lives on.

This becomes evi­dent as we learn more about the Church’s insid­i­ous past and present. The mes­sage that “True evil…uttered prayers, not curs­es” res­onates as Immanuelle—and the read­er, by extension—realizes the truth.

My most notable con­cern with this book fell on a sec­ondary char­ac­ter in The Year of the Witch­ing: the witch Lilith. I know the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty is large­ly uneasy with the “fem­i­nist retelling” of the myth­ic Lilith and, with­out the cul­tur­al back­ground myself, I’d need to know more to be con­fi­dent that there weren’t through-lines of appro­pri­a­tion in what oth­er­wise comes off as an incred­i­ble read. 

Read­ing like a dark fairy­tale in its own right, The Year of the Witch­ing will immerse you in its mys­te­ri­ous, shad­owy world. Immanuelle makes for an engag­ing hero­ine as she awak­ens to the injus­tices around her and uncov­ers secrets that turn her world upside down in Henderson’s engross­ing fem­i­nist fan­ta­sy debut. I’m excit­ed to see where she takes us next with­in the world of Bethel!

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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