This book is far from bad. It is well written and engaging, but the conversation it is trying to have feels like the idealistic musings of a child rather than a true representation of the conflicts represented in this book. That is, rather than truly analyzing this in the cruel realities of adulthood, we are stuck in the rose colored glasses of young adulthood (so naturally I think this feels more YA than adult).
Usually, I am not one to overanalyze the direction of a book so long as it is a good read. In this case it just took me out of the book. I am going to break down why that is, and in doing so I will explore broad plot directions, but not exactly telling you what happens. If you have a problem with even broad details, you may want to stop reading.
The Year of the Witching follows a young girl trapped in a puritanical society. She soon discovers her mother had ties to witches of the dark wood and becomes entangled in plagues they bring upon her land.
I thought it was obvious from the start that she would break bad, turn against her god and all the evils he represents. Instead, she is trapped within this idealistic idea of her people and her religion. Throughout this book, she remains steadfast that it can be saved. That is that idea that I could not reckon with. You don’t reform the Taliban. You don’t reform the Westboro Baptist Church even. There are some systems that are evil at its core.
This entire town is the embodiment of the patriarchy, and much like in the Witch (the film), the witchcraft is the direct challenge of the patriarchy. I was so sure that was the direction it had to be going, yet while we got close to there, it took far too long and did not go nearly far enough.
Some might argue that I am wrong because the story manages to find a conclusion that is exactly as our main character believes is right, but that conclusion doesn’t affirm her idealistic view. It merely serves to undermine the believability of the plot and worldbuilding.
That leads me to greater problem of this book. In search of an almost utopian outcome, we have characters that are simply too pure, too easily swayed. I grew up in a fundamentalist family and church. We may not have sacrificed sinners, but I know all too well about the grips of religion. Even after escaping, I know that conflict that comes with wanting to undo and break free of the shackles of the religion while everyone you love remains immersed within it. The religion of this book is basically a cult (then again, I think most religions are cults so…). These kind of mindsets don’t just go away. They are fundamental to their nature.
Yet this book would have us believe that these members would so easily go against what they’ve been taught their entire life. This is true of how the story concludes, but it is also true with the characterization of a major side character Ezira. He is a very likable and good character. He is also the son of the very wicked Prophet/leader/priest of the town. As much as we all want to believe goodness is fundamental to who we are, we are products of our environment, and never is it sufficiently explained what in his life instilled within him this empathy and willingness to challenge his religion that his father fundamentally lacks. It is far more believable that evil begets evil, and while that is not a certainty, it just feels too convenient to have this figure, of reasonable authority within their community, who happens to be as pure as the religious zealots pretend to be.
My dislike of this book started with just a general disappointment that it wasn’t going to be as dark as I had hoped. However, it’s since evolved into a fundamental disagreement with the direction the book took.
3.5-4, but closer to 3.5 stars