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.
Hardcover, 282 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Hyperion Books CH
Four stars: This is an enchanting book that reads like an old fairy tale.
"It starts with a crack, a sputter and a spark. The match hisses to life."
From the first line, this book transports you back to a simpler time. When people still believed in the spirits of nature and witches were still somewhat accepted. Before superstition and blame stormed in and banished them into hiding. For me, this a story that should be in an ancient, worn leather binding; tucked away on a shelf of favorite, old tales. A volume that should be brought out in October and read when the shadows are long, around a warm fire. This is a story where the wind has life, it whistles, whips, whirls and whispers through the pages, as it whisks around the town of Near, nestled next to the Moor. One night a stranger, who seems to melt into the shadows, appears in the darkness on the outskirts of town. Who is this mysterious boy? On that same night, a child disappears. Then the next night another. Lexi a determined young lady, who misses her dead father so much it makes your heart ache, doesn't believe this enigmatic boy is responsible. She refuses to hear the rumors circulating through the small town, and she sets out to uncover the truth behind the inexplicable disappearances. It is a mystery that begins with an old children's rhyme,The Witch Song, echoing on the wind. Can she unravel the secret in time?
What I Liked:
- The writing in this book is gorgeous. The words have a life of their own. They are spell binding and mesmerizing. There are no simple descriptions in this book. Everything is brought to life with stunning visual imagery. I cannot do it justice in my explanation. It is honestly some of the most breathtaking and beautiful writing I have encountered.
- The tale of this book reads like a forgotten legend of old brought back to life. A definite departure from contemporary young adult fiction. It is creative and imaginative.
- Lexi, our heroine, is a girl trying to dull the pang of loss by filling her father's boots. In an era when girls and women should be delicate; bound to the hearth and home, she defies the thinking of the times and stubbornly takes on the role of a tracker, like her father. I admired her strength and tenacity, especially when breaking free of societal expectations could be extremely dangerous.
- The two old spinster, sister witches Magda and Dreska. These two held the secrets of the town and they kept them well. Their characters were cryptic and somewhat scary, but I thought they were fascinating. I would love to spend more time in their cottage drinking tea; waiting for them to divulge their archaic knowledge.
- The way that the author incorporated nature into the story. The elements all had their own voice; the moor, the night, the rain and especially the wind. The personification of the wind is magical.
And The Not So Much:
- The story is somewhat slow and drags a little toward the end. Not a lot happens in this book. It moves at a deliberate speed. Luckily, the writing is so superb you remain engaged.
- The ending felt a little abrupt. The book slowly builds and builds and when it finally draws to a close it leaves a few unanswered questions.
- This book is an amazing work of literary art. I am surprised this is in the young adult category. I feel that the average, young teenage reader may not grasp the complex, beauty of this book. I think it is best suited for older young adult readers; not due to the content; this book has no inappropriate material, but because this book is not a simple story, it is a sophisticated piece of literature, that younger readers may not fully appreciate.
- The character of Cole, is never fully revealed. At the end of the story I still didn't even know his real name. He remains in part, a mystery.
The Near Witch is a beautiful, intriguing tale. It draws on tales of old. It has a dash of magic, the beginnings of a romance and the whispering of the wind. I recommend you take time to appreciate the amazing and intricate weaving of words in this novel. That to me is the best reason to read this book. If you appreciate literary art then this book will speak to you. A magical book that should be read by a flickering candle or a crackling fire. Pick up The Near Witch and be whisked away.
"Fear is a strange thing," he used to say. It has the power to make people close their eyes, turn away. Nothing good grows out of fear."
"The trees all whisper, the leaves gossiping. The stones are heavy thinkers, the sullen silent type. He used to make up stories for everything in nature, giving it all voices, lives. If the moor wind sings, you mustn't listen, not with all your ears. Use only the edges. Listen the way you'd look out the corners of your eyes. The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company."
"And then the clouds slip in. They sweep silently across the sky and swallow the moon, and just like a candle snuffed out, the world goes dark."
"People know, but they try to forget," I say shaking my head. "They see witches as scary stories, as monsters. When my father was alive, things were better. He believed that witches were blessings. They are closer to nature than any human, because it is a part of them. But most people believe witches are cursed."
"Of course she was. Stories are always born from something."