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.
Henderson's bewitching feminist fantasy debut draws readers into a world of harsh contrasts and dark magic. Immanuelle's mother dies in childbirth, proclaiming, with her dying breath, that her baby is "a curse." Now a teenager, Immanuelle can't find her place in the rigid, puritanical society of Bethel as the mixed-race daughter of a woman remembered only for adultery, madness, and an association with witchcraft. The forbidden Darkwood on the outskirts of town whispers to Immanuelle, and when she finally gives in and wanders into its thickets, the spirits of the town's murdered witches bequeath her with Miriam's journal. As Immanuelle learns more about her mother's history and her own connection to the Darkwood, a series of plagues befall Bethel. With her newfound magic, Immanuelle, the town's shunned, blasphemous daughter, may be the only one with the power to stop them. Henderson offers a powerful portrait of patriarchal, racial, and religious abuses in Bethel society, conjuring a sense of creeping dread and maintaining the pacing throughout. This riveting work announces Henderson as an exciting new voice in dark fantasy.
I loved it!
Hard to get through
Not at all what I was expecting or hoping for. It was hard to finish. Boring.