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.
My Rating: 4/5
My Favourite Quote: “Good people don’t bow their heads and bite their tongues while other good people suffer. Good people are not complicit.”
I first saw this book on a post on Goodreads about new releases and immediately knew I needed to read it. I love anything involving witchcraft and magic, and I was not disappointed. This is a debut novel by Alexis Henderson and I am now so excited to see what she does next!
This book feels like The Scarlet Letter mixed with the TV show Salem, with maybe a bit of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina mixed in. You really can feel the control and repression that exists in the city of Bethel, and the world building is incredibly ominous. You know something lurks in the forest that borders the town, and you can feel the anxiety of the characters as they contemplate this and potentially enter the forest. This is a really dark and interesting read, and in my opinion perfect for the Halloween season.
The world building in this book is really interesting and nuanced. The religious elements that are explored are well crafted, and they add to the sense of overwhelming control within the society. The magic within this story takes the form of plagues—blood, blight, darkness, slaughter and they match the dark oppressive tone of the world so well. In addition to this, there was something really satisfying about being immersed in the world of Bethel and being able to watch power structures be torn down with some satanic adjacent magic!
My only critique of this book would be nearing the end of the book it felt a little bit cliched, but this is incredibly common nitpick on my end! Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book if you are looking for a creepier witch story this year. If you liked the shows Salem or the new Sabrina– read this book, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
If you have read this book I’d love to hear your opinions! Also, if anyone has any recommendations of books in this same sort of tone, I would be very interested to hear about them!