The Year of the Witching by Alexis Hendersen

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. (taken from Amazon)

This is going to be a very odd, convoluted review. I have very mixed thoughts on this one, so of course I’ll be unable to do much but blather. You have been warned.

The Year of the Witching felt like a mash-up of The Crucible and M. Night’s The Village, with some Anne Rice thrown in for good measure. It was haunting and I won’t forget it in a hurry.

The first thing I noticed was the author’s incredible ability to make a small, simple setting seem ominous and fraught with peril. The book takes place in a small, puritanical village. Women are seen as secondary to men and the Prophet controls everything. He uses fear and years of tradition to keep his cult in line. It was uncomfortable to read, but also fascinating. It got me mulling over the differences between obedience through faith and obedience through fear.

The book follows Immanuel, an illegitimate child of a woman who cheated on her betrothed with an Outskirter, a man of a different race and religion. That union does not end well, and Immanuel is raised by the family her mother was supposed to marry into. Immanuel tries to be subservient, the way women are supposed to be in this society, but instead is drawn in the Darkwood, a place of witches and curses. Something is started that only she can stop, if anyone can.

The characters themselves were interesting. The Prophet gave me major ick vibes (he’s supposed to), and at times it became too much. He legitimately scared me because he was utterly believable. In fact, the entire book got under my skin. It borrowed in deep and ended up really unsettling me.

I’m not sure entirely what was so disturbing about this book. I definitely think the overcontrolling patriarchy was part of it, as were the witches themselves. Nothing was overdone; Hendersen kept a balance between the “everyday life” of the book, and the creepiness that slowly bled into that. The curses themselves were set in motion in a way that just really bothered me.

That being said, the book is absolutely engrossing. The slower buildup complimented the claustrophobic feel of the town, and Immanuel’s discontent with the religion and fear of her disobedience being discovered just added to that. Despite being incredibly unsettled, I wanted to know how it ended. I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend this book to every horror reader, but if you like subtle atmospheric horror, this will suit you.

Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus is a play, so reading it as a novel has its disadvantages. That being said, I still found it to be a fascinating study on pride, desire, and what a person is willing to do to get what they feel they deserve.

The first thing the audience (or reader, in this case) is made to understand is that Dr. Faustus feels underappreciated and that he does not get the credit or riches he deserves. He decides to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for power and riches. Obviously, this isn’t an unheard-of idea, but Dr. Faustus is one of the earlier examples. What follows feels to me more like an examination of the value of a soul, and what exactly damns it, than anything else. That might disappoint some people, but I found it fascinating, especially when viewed through the lens of society at that time.

Mephistopheles was my favorite character (his name is absolutely absurd, though). On the surface, his driving force can be summed up when he utters the lines, “ O what will not I do to obtain his soul!”, but he is actually much more complicated than that. I see him as a representation between the religious expectation of the time and desire. There was kind of a “fall in line” attitude toward religion when this was originally written (in the early 1600’s, I think), so Mephistopheles is pretty much the personification of dissent. Plus, he was fun. He was so desperate to gather those souls!

The pacing is definitely odd, but a good chunk of that is because it’s supposed to be seen performed and I haven’t been able to yet. There are a plethora of monologues, and a lot of introspection, so it’s a slower and more complex read. What pushed The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus from a “like” to a “love” for me is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but I’ll just say that it pretty perfectly embodies one of humanity’s more prevalent characteristics.

I highly recommend reading it.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow- ARC Review

Amazon.com: The Once and Future Witches (9780316422048): Harrow ...

In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in a Hugo award-winning author’s powerful novel of magic amid the suffragette movement.
 
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters — James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna — join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote — and perhaps not even to live — the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on October thirteenth.

Do you know how sometimes people get so angry they feel like punching a wall? This book is the literary equivalent of punching a wall. It’s packed with the fury of women oppressed. And it works perfectly.

In Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, the prose flowed like a stream building into a river. It was beautiful and it took its time. The Once and Future Witches does not have that feel at all. Instead, it is told in staccato bursts of cause and effect. This book rose and fell like a giant wave. I’d take a breath-and get pulled under again.

The story follows three estranged witchy sisters. Juniper is the wild child, the one who starts it all. When she comes across both her sisters in New Salem, they are reunited, past baggage in tow. Never content to sit on the sidelines, Juniper jumps straight into the suffragist movement, from there doing her absolute best to make everyone and their dog mad. Juniper was unpredictable and interesting to read. I never knew what to expect from her character, only that it would cause trouble.

Beatrice is the middle child and the wise one. Books are her refuge (sound familiar, anyone?) and she is the researcher who makes sure the sisters have any knowledge they need. She is often unsure of herself. Really, she is her own worst enemy. Her story arc is quieter, but no less important. When the other sisters break down, she is there to pick up the pieces.

Agnes is a force to be reckoned with. It takes her quite a while for her sense of injustice to boil over and turn into action. Once it does, though – yikes! Don’t make her mad. While I enjoyed her character, she is my least favorite of the three.

The concept is a unique one: take the suffragist movement and chuck in some magic. If it was written by any other author, it might have floundered. However, Alix E. Harrow is a fantastic writer. She could write a novel about paper cuts, and I’d be excited to read it.

If you like books with angry characters, vengeance, and more than a touch of magic, this one is for you.

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency and the Case of the Missing Ghost by D.L. Dugger- ARC Review

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: And the case of the missing ghost by [Dugger, D.L.]
When a ghost disappears from a local house he was haunting, his sister in the OtherWorld spirit realm hires the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency to find him. Eager to locate the missing ghost, the youthful sleuths, Abby, Toby and Billy, and their grumpy Medium Arthur Monsento jump right into the investigation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on November 11th.

What first drew me to this book was the old-school kids’ detective agency idea. I loved that sort of story when I was young, and this seemed a fresh take on an old favorite. There was a Scooby-Doo vibe, except that the ghosties happen to be actual ghosts.

This is the third installment in the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency series, but it was easy to understand what was happening, thanks to explanations given throughout the book. The explanations didn’t necessarily fit into the storyline nicely; rather, they just sort of popped up. However, it was good to have them. I don’t think they are long enough to bore repeat readers, which is also a plus.

The premise of this particular mystery is the search for a missing ghost. He’s no longer haunting the house he normally appears at, and his recently deceased sister is concerned about him. I laughed pretty hard at that idea.

The detective agency consists of three kids (Abby, Billy, and Toby), and a cranky old medium. They follow clues of an unusual kind to attempt to find the missing ghost. I don’t want to give too many details away, since half the fun of a mystery is following the twists and turns.

This book is a lot of fun. It’s a new take on the usual trope and I quite enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read, this is a good one to check out. I’ll know I’ll be going back and reading the first two in this series.

Markus by David Odle- ARC Review

Image result for markus by david odle

Markus Blue is one of the most powerful men alive. Fire from his hands can destroy armies and his battles are legendary. He is one of a rare breed called the warlock, one of the last of his kind and he is dying. But he must face one more battle, one more challenge or it will mean the end of the world as we know it. (taken from Amazon)

                     Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When I read the description for this book, I thought it would be a fantasy adventure, the sort that pits one against many. Instead, this book is a modern story that just so happens to also include vampires, werewolves, and a crotchety once-powerful old man. It was a blast.

The premise was simple: a big, bad vampire rampaging around, causing no end of trouble. Battles ensue. I loved it. It was so much fun! I enjoyed the daylight out of myself. This book pairs well with 90’s nostalgia and popcorn.

There wasn’t a lot of character depth, but with a book like this, there doesn’t need to be. It sounds like I’m just listing negative traits, but what would normally be considered a negative is actually a very good thing in this story. Markus was a fun character with a tough exterior, experience and power to back up his ego, and a hidden soft heart.

Every now and again I have one of those days where the only solution is to watch a movie like Blade. One that’s not heavy on the plot, it’s easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and there are cool sunglasses. Markus didn’t have the sunglasses, but in every other aspect it felt like a simple, fun vampire flick. Check it out!