I love a good yarn about witchcraft, so jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour for THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING, huge thanks to Anne for the invite. It’s a debut novel from Alexis Henderson whose lifelong love of ghost stories and all things witchcraft has resulted in a surprisingly detailed story, with complex themes and a defiant, political feminist drive.
Please keep scrolling for bookish chat about THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING
Born on the fringes of Bethel, Immanuelle does her best to obey the Church and follow Holy Protocol. For it was in Bethel that the first Prophet pursued and killed four powerful witches, and so cleansed the land.
And then a chance encounter lures her into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel.
It is a forbidden place, haunted by the spirits of the witches who bestow an extraordinary gift on Immanuelle. The diary of her dead mother . . .
Fascinated by and fearful of the secrets the diary reveals, Immanuelle begins to understand why her mother once consorted with witches. And as the truth about the Prophets, the Church and their history is revealed, so Immanuelle understands what must be done. For the real threat to Bethel is its own darkness.
Bethel must change. And that change will begin with her . . .
Firstly, this is not simply a story of witchcraft, it’s a layered and detailed novel with Atwood vibes connecting the wider themes into the dominant patriarchal village of Bethal. I must admit I wasn’t expecting a YA book vibe, so once that was established, I was able to adjust to the overall plot, character types and their relationships.
Bethal is controlled strongly by religion, and the patriarchy that represents it. The rules over the villagers are stark, particularly so for the women. The darkness and the evil are not, as expected, ultimately caused by the witches, but it’s deeply rooted in the societal structures in place throughout Bethal. At the centre of this is the Prophet, who leads the villagers and is the top of the village’s hierarchy – he is also able to claim several wives, and both dominate and control them to his advantage. The reader cannot help but immediately question the morality and systemic patriarchy controlling this sheltered and alienated village.
So, where’s the witchcraft? It lies in the deep forest surrounding the town, and in its history. Our eyes are opened to this, through our central protagonist, Immanuelle, whose life changes after finding her dead mother’s diary; suddenly her perspective of the world shifts, and she begins to question how evil, and how much a threat the spirits of the witches in the wood are.
This is also a book about a quest, and the coming of age story of Immanuelle. She is drawn into the battle to stop four plagues descending on the village, a plague she unwittingly began. Her quest is to defeat the four plagues of Blood, Blight, Darkness and Slaughter, and along the way discover who is she, and where she truly belongs. Her bravery, passion, and morality to do what is right makes her a powerful female character; this is most definitely, and rightly, her story.
Certainly, a strong debut novel, with surprising thematic depth. A book that explores religion, patriarchy, feminism, fundamentalism, and politics as a young girl fights for the truth of her past and attempts to build a better future. With an abundance of darkness, witchery, and horror; this is a steadily paced and detailed book of a town plagued by witchcraft with a powerful thematic undercurrent.
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.
The Blog Tour
Please do buy from independents if you can XX