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.
The Near Witch is one of the prettiest books I’ve read in awhile. When the summary says the tale is “achingly familiar,” it isn’t joking. Schwab has crafted a fairy tale as beautiful and haunting as those whispered late at night over backyard campfires.
The entire time I was reading The Near Witch I felt as though I was floating along through a story I’d heard during my childhood but had long since forgotten. Each sentence and paragraph felt as light and eerie as the wind whistling through the trees, calling me forward to pages riddled with even more surprises. I was swept up into Lexi’s world and didn’t leave until I flipped the very last page. It's the kind of story I could easily see myself reading over and over again, never growing bored.
The town of Near provided the perfect backdrop to Lexi and Cole’s adventure. From the first description of the town I was automatically reminded of the opening of Hocus Pocus, a favorite of mine growing up. I could easily imagine the townspeople stuck in their ways and fighting against change and new ideas. In fact, this aversion to strangers and change helped to drive the story along and made Lexi’s character shine all the brighter. Having been raised in a town like Near, her strength and intuitive understanding of nature were all the more remarkable.
Finally, a testament to the book’s quality is that the day after I finished reading I decided to bake bread. The books I love the most are usually the ones that prompt me to bake the next day. It is because the stories come to life so clearly in my head, including even the most miniscule details, and linger with me for days. With Shiver, I awoke the next morning with the desire to make quiche, because that’s what Grace and Sam did. And now with The Near Witch, I was inspired to bake loaves of bread, as Lexi’s mother did throughout the novel.
I don’t know what more to say about this beautiful book, other than I’d highly recommend it. Schwab’s masterful writing is reason enough to pick up The Near Witch, but the wonderfully-crafted fairytale it tells is what really seals the deal.