published: 23rd July 2020
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy.
The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.
But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by 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 realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her…
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: animal sacrifice, animal death, cutting, burning (as punishment), implied domestic abuse, paedophilia, rape
To be perfectly honest, The Year of the Witching is a book I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about. About the full extent of those feelings is, yeah I liked it. Because that’s about it. I liked it and not much more.
The book follows Immanuelle, the child of a forbidden relationship between a member of Bethel, the community in which she lives, and an outsider. Bethel is a highly religious community, led by the Prophet and following Holy Protocol, and Immanuelle and her family are mostly shunned, for she is visibly the offspring of this forbidden relationship. But then Immanuelle ventures into the Darkwood, and everything changes.
The best part of this was the relationship between Immanuelle and Ezra, the Prophet’s son and chosen heir. I mean, first you have the whole forbidden relationship aspect of it, but also two people in different walks of life, and two people who might reasonably not be expected to interact. It was so so good, and the development which led to the ending? The way they were both willing to [redacted] [redacted] for the other? Just beautiful.
Relationship aside though, this is a book that had to grow on me. That’s not to say I disliked it at the start or anything, but I couldn’t exactly say I was immediately engaged. Which is probably a me thing, because I tend towards faster paced plots than there was here. But once I got into it, I definitely enjoyed it.
But I think the major problem that struck me about this book was it’s fairly light on the worldbuilding. Which wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but for the fact I had not a clue where the boundaries of this community lay and what the world outside was at all like (for example, how does this highly religious community fit into the world as a whole?). I mean, it’s a book set in Bethel, it makes sense to not really go that much in depth into what’s outside, but I’d like something. Also it made it confusing who actually these “outsiders” were. Did they just live surrounding a compound? Were they technically within the community limits? What I really needed here was a map to visualise it all.
Despite all that, though, it’s definitely a book I would recommend. Especially if you want that creepy witchy feel.