Published by Titan Books on March 12th, 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Young Adult
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Ages 14 to 18 years
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.
Very different in tone to the rest of her books, The Near Witch is a gothic cautionary tale about witches kidnapping children. It took me a while to adjust to the poetic, whimsical writing in the book but once I did, I was completely hooked into the story.
Lexi is a curious, independent girl who goes against everyone’s warnings to investigate the missing children in the small town of Near – and learns to trust in her instinct. While everyone pins the disappearances on the new stranger, Cole, she befriends him and gives him a chance to hear his story. Through Lexi’s perspective, we learn about the tale of The Near Witch, a fairytale told to her by her father. As the story unfolds, we also learn that the tale may be grounded in some truth – and it’s up to Lexi and Cole to find out which part of it is true.
I can’t say too much else about the plot before giving it away, but I really enjoyed the poetic nature of the story and how deliciously creepy it was. Perhaps it may be a story that we’ve heard before, a fairytale that serves to warn children to stay away from dark places and mysterious people, but I loved the way the mystery just hooked me from the start.
What really makes the story shine is the beautiful writing – it’s incredibly poetic and whimsical, and reading it is a magical experience. From the shady part of the town to the autumn leaves rustling in the wind – there’s an atmospheric, moody vibe to the story that I completely lapped up.
While many fairytales usually lay heavily on the moral of the story, this one does it more subtly – and I loved it. I loved how Lexi’s mother encouraged her to follow her heart and explore herself, even though everyone else frowned heavily upon it. I loved how the outcasted ‘sisters’ who were thought to be witches were slowly welcomed by the rest of the town due to her father’s urging. I also loved how Lexi gave Cole a chance, someone who was already discarded by the rest of the villages simply for being an outsider. When one looks deeper into the story of The Near Witch, it’s about acceptance, understanding and taking the time to learn about those who are excluded.
I absolutely adored this whimsical story about mysterious boys, witches and sisterhood. While the mystery hooked me in, the whimsical story, the moody atmosphere and the beautiful writing made me stay. If this was a recently published book (it was originaly published in 2011), I would say that I’d be really looking forward to the rest of the author’s work…but we all know how that went.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thanks to New South Books for sending me a review copy!
The Near Witch is available for AUD$18.99 from Australian bookstores or from The Book Depository.
Exclusive Interview with V.E. Schwab
During her Australian tour to promote graphic novel The Steel Prince and the release of The Near Witch, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with V.E. Schwab in this exclusive interview (I know, I’m still fangirling)! We spoke about her writing process, Vicious & Vengeful, re-releasing The Near Witch and of course, dogs.
Check it out below or on my Youtube channel!
A big thank you to Victoria Schwab and New South Books for this interview!
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