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18 Oct 2012

Book Review - The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

"The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. "

"If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely,
and always looking for company. "

"And there are no strangers in the town of Near."

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger--a boy who seems to fade like smoke--appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know--about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget.

Victoria Schwab has a way with narrative.  It sounded just like an old-fashioned fairy tale complete with the eerie woods, vengeful witch, isolated village and spooky moors with a mind of its own.  I
loved the mix of fairy and witchy horror.  The setting of Near was so vivid in my head as I read it, appearing very old fashioned as a fantastical small village haunted by a mystical and vengeful witch.

I liked Lexi as a MC.  She was capable on her own and was driven to hunt for the Near Witch and to put a stop to the missing children as soon as the first child was kidnapped.  Lexi was quite the detective, snooping around for clues and trying to find out of the witch is more than just a bogeyman story to scare children.  Maybe the Near Witch is more than an old legend and Lexi is determined to find out, soon realising that there is a darker side to the village of Near, much darker than this tragic witch.  All to find the children, stop the witch and hopefully prove a stranger's innocence.

The Near Witch provides the chills as the ghost who barely makes an appearance in the book.  She remains in the background quite a lot, unseen and lurking which was quite effective.  Could Lexi even be sure that it is her and not the stranger? It gets your imagination going about what she could be like if it is actually her haunting the village or whether the kidnapper is closer to home.  The tales say she can control the wind, using it as her voice which makes even nature around Near appear dangerously alluring and sinister.  When you hear the wind can you be sure that it is the wind? When it howls is it just strong or is someone actually screaming?

I think one of the downsides to the book was the romance between Cole and Lexi.  Quite an instant attraction quickly moving to 'I want to be with you forever' territory.  But that's a personal preference to how I like my romances.  I love development, slowly moving from attraction and instalike to love and commitment.  So for me it means the rating goes down but that could easily be what another reader might be looking for instead and overall enjoy much more than I did.  The romance just didn't get my heart fluttering and my eyes watering (and that can happen - I still tear up over Monica and Chandler's proposal in Friends).

The plot can drag from time to time.  There's a lot of getting close to the Near Witch but having to quickly escape.  Back again, then running away and leaving it till the next morning and so on.  That did seem like the author was trying to prolong the action, not quite ready to jump into a showdown with the Near Witch so soon even though her supposed resting place was discovered quite quickly.   Will I read more from the author? Of course.  I love her poetic and vivid narrative and can't wait to see what else she can come up with.  A fantastical and thrilling read.


  1. This one has been on my TBR list for months and months now and yet I still haven't gotten my hands on it. I remember Veronica Roth raving about it awhile back too. I have this list of books that would be perfect pre-Halloween reads, but time is rapidly running out to squeeze them in! This one might need to make the cut. Next up on the list is ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, though. Can't wait! :)

  2. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Anna Dressed in Blood! I hope you'll enjoy The Near Witch when you do come to read it. :)

  3. I really enjoyed THE NEAR WITCH too, Robin :D The world Victoria created is so...eerie and magical and incandescent but still very present. She has a way with words, I wanted to highlight a lot of the sentences while I was reading.
    (Oh and I also totally tear up at the Monica/Chandler proposal :D)
    Great review!

  4. It was such a beautiful world. Modern and traditional at the same time. I did like that she didn't really let us know what era it was, whether it was a complete fantasy world or a real life village in England, America, anywhere. That's pretty much left up to our own interpretations which I really liked. :)