Book review: The Year of the Witching

Book: The Year of the Witching (Bethel #1)

Author: Alexis Henderson

Genre: witchy thriller

Rating: 7/10

Trigger warnings: religious fanaticism, sexual abuse, pedophilia, animal sacrifice, grooming, coercion, racism, cults, probably more I’m not remembering.

Read if you like: mean witches, creepy religious weirdness, women taking back their power, coming of age stories but with a spooky vibe.

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Well this was a creepy one that’s for sure. But less creepy because of the witches and more creepy because of the disgusting old men. Bethel is a town (cult) with a gate all around that will not open for anyone. The prophet (chief creepy old man) leads this religious place with an iron fist. He and his apostles have many wives and young girls are eligible to be wives as soon as the get their period. Surrounding Bethel is the Dark Wood which is where the scary witches live. Just before the Dark Wood is the outskirts, the people who live there are black and treated as lesser humans. Immanuelle, our main character, is half black and half white. Her mother hooked up with a man from the Outskirts and then they were both killed for their “sins”. Immanuelle was raised by her white grandmother as a member of the church, but she is treated poorly her whole life because of the colour of her skin.

Hook – 2/2: This one starts out right away with a disturbing animal sacrifice. I had 2 members of the buddy read I’m hosting, DNF immediately because of it. So fair warning. We learn about the ways of the religious cult first, which sets up the creepy uneasy feeling quite nicely. The Prophet especially is awful, he lusts after young women and is taking Immanuelle’s best friend, the 16-year-old Leah as his latest bride. And he has a lot of young brides. Then we learn about the 4 witches that cursed Bethel a long time ago and were chased out by the church. Many women have been burned at the stake for witchcraft in Bethel’s history.

Writing – 2/3: Henderson has creepy AF down. This book gave me an uneasy feeling the whole time. She also did a great job at the social commentary and the way the people from the Outskirts are treated and shunned. I enjoyed the writing and how well it put me on edge. However, there was a common theme throughout that I found annoying. Every reaction Immanuelle had was very extreme. She was always almost fainting, almost collapsing, heart suddenly pounding, knees weak. Like the character went from everything is fine to full on panic instantly. Nothing that happened caused her to have a slight reaction. It was always a full on panic. It was like there was no medium. It was very dramatic. And maybe the point of that was too cause the reader to also panic. But I found it was happening every time and that was too much.

Plot – 2/3: The premise of the story is Immanuelle discovering her witchy heritage. The town is suddenly set upon by some curses that come from the witches in the Dark Wood. Immanuelle struggles with fighting what is happening to her people and understanding why they deserve to be cursed, since they are mostly a bunch of gross men. I really enjoyed the witches. These aren’t nice witches, they aren’t cute. They are mean and they are after revenge. I think Immanuelle’s growth through the book was great and I can’t wait to see what will happen in book 2.

Characters – 1/2: The only one I liked was Immanuelle. There are a couple of other characters that have some redeemable qualities but overall they are all complacent or disgusting. I don’t think that the reader is meant to like most of the people in this book. But I didn’t really like anyone. Even Immanuelle annoyed me with how dramatic she was.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. I think Alexis Henderson can write a creepy book and I am looking forward to seeing what she comes out with next in the series. I have hopes that Immanuelle will seek some revenge and learn more about her witchy lineage.

Happy Reading!


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