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.
Holy crap. That’s really all I can say. I mean, it’s a Schwab novel, y’all. You know it’s gonna be good!
So a small confession: I had already read a large part of this before receiving my review copy. My library owned possibly the last copy of this book in the entire state, and I loved it so much that I debated spiriting it away (I would’ve paid the lost book fee, promise!) and hiding it away in my little hobbit hole. But right when I was debating to do just that, the announcement came: The Near Witch was to be re-released, with the addition of The Ash-Born Boy. So a lovely bind-up of the full story, all in one legitimately gorgeous package.
Now, keep in mind, this is technically Schwab’s debut novel. to try to compare it to Shades of Magic, Villains, or any other more recent story wouldn’t be fair. But it’s still an absolutely beautiful story. As an avid reader of her work, you can truly see her future works twinkling in the background. It’s poetic. (My girl started as a poet, so go figure!)
Hokay, so for the actual review.
Lexi is a teenage girl, smashing the patriarchy of her small town in teeny ways (like by always carrying her father’s knife when her uncle Otto is so against it). She thinks she sees a face in the window, but not of anyone she recognizes. That’s what starts the freaky feelings she has: there aren’t strangers in her town. And then the children start to go missing.
The overall feel of the story is vaguely gothic (you got moors, witches, boys who may or may not exist, and a heroine who just needs to think a little more), and I’ve been slowly dying for a good gothic tale to curl up with this winter.
The romance aspect of the story is predictable, but when you consider the original time of publication…every romance was predictable! Plus Cole’s this lovely soft boy, who wouldn’t love him?
When keeping in mind this is technically a re-release of a debut novel, Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch is quiet and sparkles with knowledge of how far she’s come. I give it 4.5 out of 5 wax puddles. Thank you so much to Titan Books for a copy in exchange for review.