Release Date: July 21, 2020
Genre: Dark Fantasy
“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.”
For a dark fantasy like The Year of the Witching, setting is just as important as character and plot. Locations make manifest the existential horrors the characters experience. It’s a good thing, then, that Alexis Henderson is so damn good at it. The Darkwood haunts Immanuelle like a monster lurking in the shadows, and the scenes where she explores it are as creepy as any good horror story. Bethel, too, is just as vivid. Rotten with puritanical ideology and patriarchal prejudice, it unsettles as much as the Darkwood. Bethel’s religion is built on the belief in the Father, a god of fire and brimstone. His cathedral is an expanse of cold stone and sharp glass. In the Outskirts, they still worship the Mother, the goddess of witchcraft and the moon, and Henderson contrasts their church as one made of warm wood and earth. It’s impressive work that reels you in…
Read the rest of this review at Tor.com.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.