Cover Image: The Year of the Witching

The Year of the Witching

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Member Reviews

I had to stop reading this one at 23%. The story just was not progressing and I found myself falling asleep constantly while reading. This one just could not hold my attention and I could not see where the story could possibly go.
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Dark, captivating and atmospheric, The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson is perfect for historical and dark supernatural fantasy lovers. With its handmaidens vibe, I quickly found myself transported to the town of Bethel and the forbidden Darkwood.

Full review will post at Caffeinated Reviewer on July 2oth. It will be uplifted on all social media. A review will cross post to Goodreads and Amazon. Link provided. Thank you.
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I just have one question... who gave Alexis Henderson permission to write such a fabulous debut novel!? The Year of the Witching is a dark feminist fantasy that follows a young woman named Immanuelle as she learns of her mother's past and the forces that conspire against her. As Immanuelle discovers the truth of her settlement's history and the Church that runs it, she soon realizes that the biggest threat may just lie in their own past. 

The Year of the Witching is powerful and engaging. It will keep you reading into the early hours of the morning just so you can see what happens next.  The characters are well-rounded and likable. Even the villains are written in such a way that although you will hate them, you will never forget them. 

The story itself flows so well with each event easily moving into the next. I didn't want it to end!

TW: rape, loss of a parent, gore, violence
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WOW. Wow wow wow, I cannot say enough great things about this incredible fantasy horror. I am already a lover of all things witches, so this book was right up my alley, and Alexis Henderson D E L I V E R E D. The number of themes explored here without making anything feel bogged down is truly remarkable: feminism, race, classism, misogyny, religious fanaticism, identity. The light Father (male Prophets) versus the dark Mother (female witches). The white puritan residents of Bethel versus the Black outcasts on the Outskirts. Biracial Immanuelle tugged between two different ways of life, coming to terms with who she is meant to be. So much to talk about!

Henderson creates an atmosphere of foreboding throughout the novel, and the juxtaposition she creates between the puritan village and the eerie Darkwood kept me on edge, especially as the Darkwood continued to call to her. The author offered just the right amount of descriptive writing to give me some seriously powerful imagery, particularly of the witches. 

The romance is super light in this book, and I very much appreciated that. The focus remained on Immanuelle and her identity throughout the novel, which made her choices really powerful. That being said, Henderson still spent time developing her secondary characters so that I was also very invested in their outcome. Immanuelle and Ezra were, for obvious reasons, my favorite relationship dynamic as they encouraged each other to carve their own paths and do what is right as opposed to what is expected. I adored them both as characters. 

This story exudes empowerment. It also doesn't claim to have all the answers, which makes for a satisfying but open-ended ending. I would like to formally beg the author for a prequel or sequel or another story set in this enrapturing world of light and dark where evil doesn't necessarily lie where you think it does. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy horror, witchcraft, and un-put-downable books.
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Summary
Immanuelle has never fit in, in Bethel. She is the child of an outsider burned at the stake, and a mother most considered mad. But Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father and follow Holy Law. She tries to live a life of submission and conformity like all women are expected to. But a mishap leads her into the forbidden Darkwood where 4 witches supposedly haunt. There Immanuelle encounters 2 spirits to gift her, her mother's journal. 
This journal leads Immanuelle down a path of dark secrets, magic, and a way to change her world. 

Overview
➸ POV: 3rd Person from Immanuelle's POV

➸ Immanuelle: 16, 2 younger sisters, Mother died in child birth, Best friend Leah, Never knew father, Raised by grandparents, Biracial, Cursed

➸ Content Warnings: Graphic Blood/Gore, Animal Death/Sacrifice, Sexism, Racism, Infertility/Miscarriage, Sexual Assault (of a minor)

My Thoughts
Wow this book... I want to start off by saying I've seen this categorized as YA and I strongly disagree with that placement. While this book follows a teenage main character, this book gets quite graphic and dark. So tread carefully, check TW's, and read reviews before going into this one (or handing it to a younger audience). 

Now that's out of the way time for me gush about one of my new favorite reads of the year!! I'm keeping this really vague because one of the best things about this story is slowly uncovering the secrets of this society.

This book had so much packed into it. Every word and paragraph felt important and necessary to the story. Not only does this book tackle an immense amount of important topics but the characterization, atmosphere, and world building blew me away. 

The history of this society, while fictional, parallels the real world so closely that it amplified the creepiness tenfold. This world is a dark patriarchal society that gave me chills and terrified me to my core. While the first part of this book is heavy on the history - it's ALL important! And once you hit the 20% point, the plot takes off and never slows down. 

Alexis Henderson blew me away with their ability to balance magic, intertwining timelines, romance, poignant themes/messages, with an utterly haunting atmosphere. This book delved into racism, assault/consent, sexism, and what it means to be family. I describe my favorite genre as 'Dark & Magical Feminist Fiction' and this fits that to a T. 

If you like very dark, slightly magical stories with intense feminist undertones, this is your book! But this book is not subtle. So if you're looking for a book that will leave you to gather your own opinions, this isn't it. This book is overtly about dismantling patriarchal societies and white supremacy, so please go in with the right expectations. 

I swear I held my breath for the entire last 20% of this book. This story was so intense and climactic, it had me on the edge of my seat desperate to find how this would end. Overall I just couldn't get enough of this witchy, dark story. I loved the characters, themes, world, romance, everything. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Alexis Henderson writes next. I feel like this book was written for my exact reading taste.
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This was a very interesting read! I don’t tend to read a lot of books that have cultish things in this one but I enjoyed it. 
 It was hard reading at times just because of how evil men where and how quick they were to judge others and especially women.
 Overall I enjoyed it!
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This one was really unique and original!  It reminded me a bit of the Handmaid's tale but with supernatural vibes to it.  It was a dark and haunting tale that was very well written.  I really liked Immanuelle and Ezra’s characters!  I would definitely recommend this to a friend.
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What drew me to this book was the title because honestly, I have a weakness for witches. It turns out that it contains my other weakness, dark, religious cults. Putting my biases aside, what we have is a fantastic book. While it can be looked at as just a coming-of-age story with magical elements it is so much more. We are given feminist and racism commentary that we can relate to our own world. The character and relationship development is fantastic. The only thing I wanted more of was the world building. I want to learn more about what is surrounding Bethel which is basically me requesting a sequel.
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I really great first novel from this author, I least I think it is... It was well written, good creativity behind it, kind of a mix of genre too. I didn't felt really close to the characters, that's why I drop it one star, but they weren't wrong in any way, just... different from the characters that stick more deeply with me. Overall, a more than decent read that I recommend and an author that I will keep an eye on!
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An atmospheric tale which reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale and The Village (THAT M Night Shyamalan's movie if anyone still remembers it), scoring a solid debut for Alexis Henderson.

The Year of the Witching is exactly the kind of witchy goodness I look out for - creepy, haunting with a no-nonsense heroine. It's set in a puritanical society dripping in patriarchy - women have no say over their bodies, anyone talking against the Church is deemed a witch and burned, people with a different skin colour are kept to the outskirts - one could easily think this was exactly how things were in the past, but it's not that difficult to imagine a future where this is the reality with how things are going now in the world.
I really enjoyed this book for the most part - a strongly written female character, beautiful writing that conveys to the reader the atmosphere the author was going for and it satisfied my craving to read something dark and witchy. I also loved how the author managed to weave the topic of racism and social injustice into the plot. My only problem with the book was the ending. I felt it could've ended better and not in a convenient, YA fashion. I kept hoping we would see some change in the society and the patriarchy but sadly, that never happened. 
Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the romance. Why do we feel the need to always have the most handsome guy as the love interest? Would have preferred it if they had remained as friends. Not every relation between a girl and a boy needs to lead to a romance, you know? 

But overall, I really loved it. This book was deliciously dark and gothic!

Trigger Warnings for: rape (off-page) of a minor, gore, body horror, domestic abuse. I might have missed a few others.
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The year of the Witching is the Salem Witch Trial version of Handmaid’s tale and although Handmaid’s Tale was something I didn’t like, this one I definitely did!!!
Immanuelle is the daughter of Miriam Moore who abandoned the Holy Scriptures to commune with the witches of the Darkwood. She has tried to lead a quiet life obeying the Scriptures but her one unexpected foray into the Darkwoods starts a chain of events that lead her to question everything she has been taught so far.
This was so beautifully atmospheric, dark, a bit weird at times (but good weird) and so chilling that certain passages gave me literal goosebumps! I felt strong and empowered and powerful after reading certain portions and that was just, such a high, I can’t even describe it. So I was getting geared up for an amazing punchy heart soaring end when it all started unravelling bit by bit. 
Whereas the first 70-80% was strong, the last 20% felt a little wishy-washy for lack of a better word. It became diluted and a bit rushed. The climax felt more like a convenient wrap up than an exciting finale. I liked the hopeful note on which it ended but I needed... more. I can’t really quantity what more is but I just needed something extra 😅
But overall this is definitely a stunning debut and I am looking forward to reading more of Alexis Henderson’s works in the future. 
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone looking for a fast paced feminist witchy read!!!
Rating : 4 stars
P.S. Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World’ was running through my head the whole time I was reading this and it’s the perfect song for this book.
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Oh my goodness I fully loved and enjoyed losing myself in this story. While in no way comparing this incredible book to any other it is relevant to say that the somewhat disappointed, ashy taste left in my mouth by my read of The Grace Year earlier this year was completely washed away by the magic and message of Alexis Henderson's debut novel. Yes, that's right, this searing and dystopian work of critical genius is a debut novel. Immanuelle was the perfect young heroine, and Bethel and the Dark Woods were the perfect atmospheric and creepy cultish settings. The female representation in this book was gorgeous and powerful. If you, like me, read The Grace Year and were left wanting, this little piece of witchy magic is undoubtedly what you seek.
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Oh! I loved this. The story is woven with such intricate characters and details that I couldn't help being sucked into the world. The young woman we follow seems to have everything in the world thrown at her and yet, she continues to fight for herself and those around her. The love story is wonderful and subtle, and the back story really helps the flow of the words. 

This story was like a twisted Salem Witch Trials with an actual dark secret. A wonderful read.

My review will be live on the Book Confessions blog on 7-14-20.
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My three words: occult, single narrator, feminist

The Year of the Witching is the story of Immanuelle Moore, a young woman growing up in a strict puritanical society. Her town, Bethel, is ruled by the Prophet, whose word is the law. When Immanuelle starts to discover the secrets of her own past, she feels a pull toward the Darkwood, home of the witches. The choices she makes have dire consequences for herself, her town, and the strict, patriarchal society as a whole.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the main character and thought she was very strongly written. She felt like a modern heroine placed in a Puritan setting. Not only that, but to have her be Black in a world that was ruled by white men was an extra level of deliciousness. Immanuelle and the other main characters (the Prophet, Ezra, etc) were the strong point of this story for me.

I almost wish this was touted as a YA book. It was really dark, but a lot of the solutions to her problems seemed coincidental and too simple for an adult horror story. I also wish that there was a little bit more going on beneath the surface... it was great as a simple societal commentary but I think there are themes that could've been better explored. For example, I don't want to spoil anything, but I would've gladly read more pages with Immanuelle wrestling with the choices between light and dark, etc.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that wants a creepy story with a strong female heroine. I liken this to The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible, but way darker and more modern.
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TW: gore, implied rape, immolation, violent conservatism, implied underage 

4.5 stars. Dark and glorious. I'm utterly obsessed with this book. This was EVERYTHING I could have ever wanted from a witch book. With the setting of The Crucible, which I loved, and the violent dark witchery of Sabrina, this was so perfect for me. I think I'd have given it 5 stars had I actually read it all at once but disconnecting myself from the story for a while meant I wasn't as immersed in it when I came back, so it ended up at 4.5 for me. 

Going back to the very beginning, I immediately loved the setting. The horrors of a puritanical society were not shied away from at all. I constantly had this feeling of impending doom and fear hanging over me at the beginning. As for our heroine, Immanuelle, I really liked her from the start. I found her to be so relatable for being a girl who felt so stifled under such a patriarchal and puritanical society. I know I'd have felt just the same as her in a situation like that. And I really enjoyed that she did not give up even in the face of a pyre hanging over her head. 

I really enjoyed Ezra as her love interest. He was a good man in a society of so many bad ones, living in the household of the worst among them. Their teamwork during the story was great and I liked seeing how much he respected Immanuelle and how he never shied away from any part of her. 

My absolute favorite part of the story were the witches. The absolute chill of them in the Darkwood and their appearance in part IV: Slaughter was incredible. Their aura is so awesome (as in AWE), and fearsome to behold. The final battle with Lillith was amazing. I also thought the plagues were such a cool device. It's so interesting to see someone write literal godly plagues out of the Old Testament and see how fearsome that Old Testament god is. I think the fire and brimstone are often forgotten about and I loved seeing plagues like those of old Egypt used as plots in this book. 

I have nothing bad to say about this book. It was amazing. But mind the trigger warnings. This is DARK. The story was uncomfortable and chilling and is not for the faint of heart. I absolutely loved it.
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The Year of the Witching is a supernatural fantasy by debut author Alexis Henderson, which releases later this month. If you are a fan of dark tales, The Year of the Witching is one you do not want to miss out on. The Year of the Witching enchanted me right from the first chapter. It was a deeply atmospheric read that stuck with me long after I had finished the book. I went into this book thinking it was going to be a bit scary and dark. Oh it was all of that and more. There are some moments and scenes in this book that were downright terrifying. But beyond that, Alexis Henderson deals with the witch trials and feminist themes so deftly. She is certainly an author that I would like to read more from.

In The Year of the Witching we meet Immanuelle, who is biracial. This immediately puts a target on her in the small town of Bethel where she is from. Immanuelle just wants to fit in, so she does her best to stick to the rigid puritanical societies' rules and not draw attention to herself. But when she finds herself in the darkwoods and encounters spirits of past witches she is set off on a different course.

The land of Bethel and it's inhabitants came to life before my eyes. Alexis Henderson has a way of crafting vivid images with her prose. IN atmospheric books, the writing makes or breaks the story for me, and here the writing style was a smash hit for me! Watching Immanuelle learn not only about a side of her mother that she didn't know about before, but also watching her learn of the town and it's past and seeing her sort out right and wrong for herself was such a powerful part of her character's progression. I loved the growth I saw in Immanuelle. And when you add in the witchcraft element you have all the workings of a wonderfully creepy story. I loved the completely realistic bitter feelings of the witches. Seeing their anger at their past oppression was a new element to this story that I really enjoyed and took it in a new direction for me. All in all, The Year of the Witching was a powerful read that I really enjoyed. But maybe don't read this one right before bed.
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A captivating story of a young woman learning to break free of the rigid structure of society and take full ownership of her power. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix.
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Thank you Netgalley for this book suggestion!! 


I am so glad I read this one because anything with witches and the history of witches- I always find fascinating! 

Immanuelle is a strong willed woman and just a perfect example of pure feminism. Henderson has a perfect way of writing a strong female character and through her use of identity, gender, and time- the pacing of this story was brilliant and a great read. 


It almost brings me back to a modern day Crucible and if you enjoyed that classic- you will enjoy this one as well!!
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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 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.
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Given how much I love witch stories based in feminism, I really, REALLY enjoyed THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING.  I thought that Henderson did a fantastic job of bringing in themes of gender, race, evangelism, and identity into this tale, and how they combined into a powerful and empowering center of a tense horror story. Immanuelle is a complex and enjoyable protagonist, as her place within Bethel is both cemented as her home and yet tenuous due to her race and her connection to her mother. Henderson balances the corruption of Bethel with the zealotry of the witches, and puts Immanuelle in the middle of it, and makes the reader wonder whether she will pick a side, or find another way. The fact that neither Bethel nor the Coven are fully right or fully wrong was a really refreshing take, as all too often nuance falls to the wayside in stories that have a lot to say about injustice. In these pages the reader has to do some soul searching just as Immanuelle does. Throw in some really well done horror imagery, a well thought out witch mythos, and commentary on women in a society that sees them as less than, and you round out this awesome YA book. 

I really, really loved THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING. Bravo to Alexis Henderson's witch tale, and I can't wait to see what kind of story she comes up with next!
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