The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

2021 is the year that I read outside my comfort zone. This means reading more horror and science fiction. My latest read is a mix of fantasy, occult, and paranormal fiction called The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. This book lays a solid foundation as the first book in the Bethel series.

In The Year of the Witching, Henderson indulges in her love of witchcraft, dark fantasy, cosmic horror, and ghost stories by telling the story of a rigid puritanical society that shuns and abhors dark powers and the witches that tried to ruin the town.

The Prophet’s word is law in Bethel. Immanuelle Moore struggles with this proclamation, despite being raised in the faith. Her mother conceived her out of wedlock with a Bethel outsider of a different race. Immanuelle’s once proud and highly revered family was cast into disgrace when she was born. Her very existence is blasphemy to the Prophet and his followers. Despite of, and perhaps because of, the disgrace her family is in, Immanuelle works hard to follow Holy Protocol, worship in the faith, and lead a life of conformity, devotion, and utter submission. All the other women in the settlement follow these rules, so Immanuelle shouldn’t have a hard time doing so.

Out one day, Immanuelle is lured into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel. The Darkwood is forbidden as it is the place where the first prophet had chased and killed four powerful witches many years ago. The Darkwood is haunted by the spirits of the witches and people who stumble in are never seen again. This forbidden place gives Immanuelle an extraordinary gift: the diary of her dead mother.

The diary holds the secrets of her mother’s life as well as the history of the Prophets and the Church. The more Immanuelle reads and digs into the mysteries, the more she understands what she has to do. Immanuelle has always known that there is something extra inside her. Both fascinated and fearful of what she finds out, Immanuelle discovers why her mother once worked with the witches. She must do something to save Bethel from its own darkness. Bethel must change.

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