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.
With her lovely writing, Victoria Schwab has created a vivid, almost claustrophobic little world of myth and magic and secrets on the moors. There is no promise of a happily ever after for everyone, but THE NEAR WITCH is all the more affecting for these little disappointments. Lexi is a strong, confident young woman making decisions that will impact the rest of her life, and I cheered along with her on every page.
Lexi lives in that limbo of being at home under adults’ thumb, but feeling the need to act on her own convictions. Even more impressive, she navigates this quintessential teenage time period without any of the hysteria or melodrama that so often accompanies it. I adored the details of her relationship with her little sister Wren, and applauded the ferocity that has her sneaking out into the darkness each night to solve a mystery the adults around her can’t. The hero, Cole, reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl, a little fey and a little damaged (but no where near enough of a dandy), and like HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, it is the girl who rescues her prince as much as anything else.
THE NEAR WITCH has the mist and menace of a great ghost story, melded with the struggle of a young woman coming of age. Without shattering the bonds of the small town in which she lives, Lexi finds a place to grow into her own. I don’t know if the Near Witch received half so much justice as she deserved, but at least Lexi fights her way to some measure of happiness.