Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (August 2, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1423137876
ISBN-13: 978-1423137870
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Cover: This final cover is absolutely gorgeous. I love the shocking blue against the starch white and I love that she's pulling back a curtain like she can almost see to the truth. Not really sure if it fits the book but it's really great!
First Sentence: "It starts with a crack, a sputter and a spark."

Mini-ReviewAn intoxicating and beautifully written debut that will have you questioning every gust of wind outside your bedroom window!


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.
Book Review:
The Near Witch is coined as "part fairy tale, part love story" and this fits the novel perfectly. The Near Witch is a beautifully crafted novel with writing in the vein of Maggie Stiefvater and is the perfect amount of creepy and whimsical. Blending an exciting plot and interesting characters, The Near Witch is one debut not to be missed.

Lexi lives in a society where woman belong in dresses in the kitchen. But Lexi loves the outdoors and the feel of leather boots on her feet. She refuses to sit still and feels like she must do something when children start to disappear in her town. Lexi is an intelligent, bright young woman who was willing to risk everything to learn the truth. I liked how kind she was and how she was willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Her attachment to her sister and her town was endearing and I loved how much stories meant to her. However, I did get a little frustrated with her towards the end of the novel. I felt like she knew she making stupid mistakes and wasting time but couldn't stop and because of that, there are some terrible consequences.

Speaking of characters, I don't think I've met one like the boy Lexi calls "Cole". What I found interesting about him was that he was slightly feminine to Lexi's masculine nature. Without giving away too much, Cole has a rough past and he lets it consume him. The way he spoke-- gently and soft on the wind-- and the way he moved just sort of reminded me of the way a woman would. The pair worked really well together like Peeta and Katniss of The Hunger Games or Grace and Sam in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I want to be clear when I say that this wasn't a bad ting and didn't take away from his character but rather it made the pair more interesting.

There were so many times when Lexi would describe the wind and how the night went darker than black that I would snuggle deeper into my mound of covers and a lean a little closer to the light. The pace is fast and the mystery is addictive. While I loved those things, there were still some questions I had about why the person was stealing kids. I did like that The Near Witch blended The Piped Piper with The Brothers Grimm-- yeah, you know the one with Heath Ledger and Matt Damon. I've read another review where they mention Hocus Pocus. The Near Witch is this amazing mesh of those tales and yet, it comes to life as something all it's own.

The plot and characters are phenomenal but where this story really comes to life is it's gorgeous writing. The wind is described in a million different ways, each as hauntingly beautiful as the last. By the end of the novel, the town feels as familiar as home does and the layering of legend and fact in Lexi's mind is so complex and perfect. It reminded me of Maggie Stiefvater's prose, something beautiful and haunting and true, all rolled into one. There were times when I'd re-read a sentence because it tasted so good in my mind.

Perhaps the author describes the novel best in this sentence, "...It whispers and it howls and it sings" (Pg. 2). The Near Witch is so many different things all at once. Like the wind, it changes with each new (page) turn, transforming from friend (when it is daytime in the book) to foe (when it turns night) in the blink of an eye. With solid story-telling, wonderful characters and beautiful writing, The Near Witch is truly an incredible debut!


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