Thank you to ACE for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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.
The Year of the Witching is such a powerful feminist read. Made to pay for the sins of her mother, Emmanuel is cursed from birth to live in a society that does nothing but down upon her because of her mother, skin color and gender. A society that favors the “Good Father” over the witchy “Dark Mother.” Where everyone repents for their sins but only women must pay the price for them.
The atmosphere of the story was so dark, creepy and mystifying. I never knew what to expect next, from the Darkwoods to the people of Bethlen. I was fascinated by this Puritan-like society that knew witches existed. Think The Crucible mixed with The Handmaiden’s Tale but with darkness constantly hovering on the sidelines.
Emmanuel was such a strong women with kindness in her heart because like eff the people of Bethlen. She’s grown up in this cult-like society where she’s had to follow the flock and learn how to bit her tongue at the injustices she sees everyday. Women are treated horribly, paying for the sins of men daily but not even noticing. This is a book about Emmanuel discovering the power she holds within herself and deciding just who she wants to be.
There was some romance and it was simultaneously my favorite and least favorite part of this book. Not because it was bad but because I would have liked Emmanuel to do everything on her own. That being said though I loved Ezra. Growing up as a man and the chosen heir of the Prophet allowed him the freedom to think for himself and learn beyond the crap thrown at the flock. While I *slightly* complain about him helping Immanuel he never stood in her way and only assisted in the decisions she made.
This was such a fast and intense read that I couldn’t put down after that weird yet intriguing prologue. It’s a book that really deep dives into misogyny and what it means to be a man versus a women. The world building was so well done and that ending was epic yet open-ended. Henderson has an amazing debut on her hands that could be revisited with either a prequel or sequel that I would pick up in a heartbeat.