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.
Alexis Henderson is a speculative fiction writer with a penchant for dark fantasy, witchcraft, and cosmic horror. She grew up in one of America’s most haunted cities, Savannah, Georgia, which instilled in her a life-long love of ghost stories. Currently, Alexis resides in the sun-soaked marshland of Charleston, South Carolina
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year so far and it more than lived up to my hopes.
It is a very 2020 book, with terrible curses, blood, blight, darkness, slaughter. It just feels like it was written exactly for the insane times we’re living in.
Dark, sinister and unsettling, that’s just the creepy religious community Immanuelle lives in. Surrounded by the Darkwood, home to four malevolent witches, Bethel follows the teachings of the Prophet, a man with multiple wives, who claims to be leading them in the ways of the Lord, overlooking the poverty and misery on their doorstep.
Immanuelle’s mother died the day her daughter was born, and as darkness approaches in the form of four terrible plagues, it is only this one brave young woman who can stop it.
Immanuelle is an incredible resilient, bold, clever woman. Treated poorly by her community because of her parentage and skin colour, raised by her grandparents and suspicious of the way things are run, she’s a very strong and powerful figure.
The tension and terror rachets up, pure Gothic horror, with sinister houses and disturbing monsters in the form of Lilith, Delilah, Jael and Mercy, the Darkwood witches.
The use of names in this book was so good too, Immanuelle, Lilith, Hope, Leah. The Biblical references abound. I could easily write whole essays on the references and the names alone.
For a first novel Alexis Henderson has written a masterpiece. I devoured this so fast. I actually already want to re-read it. Adding it to my top 10 books for this year.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.