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.
When I saw the cover for this book, I knew I wanted to know more. It looked dark and witchey, and that’s right up my alley. Plus, I’d seen a whole lot of gushing online about good it was and how the horror elements were extremely well done. So, I was very much looking forward to reading it! Trigger warnings: blood, gore, sexual assault, body horror
This book is bloody. And brutal and horrifying. While I did enjoy reading it, there were some things that I didn’t quite love.
First off, the things I did like! This book truly was terrifying. In the beginning, everything was chugging along and when things hit, they hit. I was always looking forward to what twisted, dark thing would happen next. This book isn’t afraid to be disturbing and that works completely in its favor.
I also really liked how this book did have supernatural elements, but it also wove in the horrors that are of human creation and how those are some of the most terrifying of all.
I also really liked Ezra. He was such a strong, solid presence in a world where everything was shaky. Immanuelle also had this stubborn strength to her; this willingness to fight for a world that is cruel to her.
The plot, the magic, and the make of this world were woven together really well. It felt unique and it was filled with dark magic.
One thing that felt a bit off to me was the pacing. It was very fast. Not in a breathless way, but in a way were I kind of wanted to slow down. I felt like it took away from the horror of this book and it could’ve reached a new height of unsettling if it dug its heals in on some things. So many things happen so quickly, and I just would have liked for some things to go into more detail or for things to just be fleshed out a bit more.
Another thing that felt a bit off to me was an overarching message. It felt like it was slipped in there in the form of a couple lines here and there, and while it fits, I think it would have been more impactful if it had been something that was present throughout the book. Maybe it just was subtle and I didn’t pick up on it. It just felt like something powerful, something that was in the background until the end, and then didn’t have a breathtaking impact when it was brought to the front.
While I didn’t fall completely in love with this book, I did like reading it! It was witchey and it was dark and it was bloody. It’s terrifying and it was solid characters. It’s definitely a book to check out!
Thank you for reading!