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.
Immanuelle Moore is different from the other girls in Bethel. The townspeople whisper stories of her mother’s sins and how those sins lead to her death and the death of her forbidden love.
They stare at Immanuelle with both contempt and fascination. It’s as if they can sense the power that shy beauty will command sometime in the very near future. But it’s the intense eyes of the Prophet’s son that she feels even in her dreams.
In the Scriptures and the stories, in the stained-glass windows of the cathedral or the paintings that hung from its stone walls, the angels always looked like Leah: golden-haired and blue-eyed, dressed in fine silks and satins, with full cheeks and skin as pale as river pearls.
Not only is Ezra Chambers the heir to the Prophet, he’s also the most wickedly handsome boy that Immanuelle has ever seen. They both have secrets that no one knows – no one but each other.
Strangely, he’s become her closest confidant and friend. So when Bethel finds itself in the grips of a catastrophic plague, Immanuelle must venture into the Darkwood to stop it. And Ezra is right by her side.
Together, they will shine light into the dark hearts of the so-called faithful and find out just how far they will go to save the ones that they love.
Their pain was the great shame of the Father’s faith, and all of Bethel shared in it. Men like the Prophet, who lurked and lusted after the innocent, who found joy in their pain, who brutalized and broke them down until they were nothing, exploiting those they were meant to protect. The Church, which not only excused and forgave the sins of its leaders but enabled them: with the Protocol and the market stocks, with muzzles and lashings and twisted Scriptures. It was the whole of them, the heart of Bethel itself, that made certain every woman who lived behind its gate had only two choices: resignation, or ruin.
With The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson delivers a debut that is both relevant and powerful. She lays down a vast austere landscape then adds characters that radiate extraordinary strength and a hypnotic brand of mysticism. The result is a stunning tale of feminist might and inspiration.
And I can’t wait to see what Alexis dreams up next…