The Year of the Witching is the debut novel by Alexis Henderson.
It was almost too perfect that I ordered this book in time for the spooky October season (my absolute favourite!). Alexis did not disappoint me in the slightest.
The story follows Immanuelle, a teenage girl living in Bethel, a land governed by strict religious practices and leaders. Immanuelle has been a outcast in Bethel from the day she was born. Her mother, young and pregnant, fled to the cursed Darkwoods that surround Bethel after the murder of her lover, a man from the Outskirts.
Immanuelle carries the burden of her parents' sins, but does her best to live up to her grandmother's expectations and blend in with the rest of the residents. On her way home from the market one day, Immanuelle finds herself with no choice but to step into the Darkwood, despite her grandmother's warnings. There she is acquainted with two of four powerful witches that rule the woods.
Immanuelle's visit seems harmless at first, but soon after, a deadly curse is unleashed and Bethel is tormented by a series of plagues. Immanuelle learns she is the key to beginning and end of the darkness that has swallowed Bethel. With the help of her mother's secret journal and a handsome friend, she must learn about her true identity in order to save Bethel before it burns at the hands of evil.
The Year of the Witching was beautifully dark and gothic. Alexis nailed the mood and atmosphere of Bethel, along with the conservative and agreeable attitudes of the townspeople. There were a couple nights when I was up reading until 3 in the morning and it just so happened to be some of the intense and spooky scenes. My heart would be beating so fast as I was following Immanuelle through the Darkwood— it was amazing!
Alexis also explored themes of feminism and colourism in the book. Women have very domestic roles in this society, to serve the home, the church and the Father. Immanuelle is a character that grows throughout the book. She starts off quiet, hoping not to be seen or noticed. As she learns more about her lineage and power, there's a clear change in her character, becoming bold, courageous and ultimately a hero. Whenever the people of the Outskirts are mentioned, their dark skin is referred to. Immanuelle, being mixed race, is rejected by many for that alone.
Overall, I couldn't be more excited about this book. After digging through Alexis' Henderson's Instagram, I saw that she is working on a sequel— yay! I also thought on more than one occasion, I'd love to see this made into a film. Brought to life, it has so much potential!
My rating: ★★★★★