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The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

I have very mixed feelings about The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. On the one hand, there is a lot to love in this debut novel full of witchcraft, a pseudo-Puritanical society, and identity-finding. Ms. Henderson incorporates characters of color, LGBTQ+ relationships, feminist awakenings, and magic, all of which are story elements I adore. Yet, I tore through the novel only to feel disappointment at the story.

To me, the fault of The Year of the Witching lies in its ending. It is as if Katniss sat back and let Peeta make all the decisions about the resistance and Panem after they won their first Hunger Games. Katniss would never do that, and neither would Emmanuelle. In fact, most of the story’s conflict revolves around the requirement that she not only accept her power but utilize it. Except, after the big battle, she relinquishes all responsibility and decision-making. This one action contradicts the growth Emmanuelle shows for 90 percent of the novel and leaves a bitter aftertaste.

The Year of the Witching has other faults. I believe Ms. Henderson leaves room for a sequel, which feels unnecessary. While I sort of enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it or the characters enough to want more of it. Plus, I kept thinking the story would turn out like the movie The Village and was expecting THAT big reveal when Emmanuelle finally leaves the confines of her little settlement. I cannot pinpoint what exactly caused me to think this, but that feeling was there nonetheless.

Ultimately, I wanted to love The Year of the Witching a lot more than I did. To me, Ms. Henderson was 75 percent success with her debut story. Unfortunately, her choices for Emmanuelle’s actions at the end felt too contradictory to the character we got to know. As a result, my ending reaction is one of dislike, no matter how much I enjoyed the story to that point.

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