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.
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.
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, 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.
What I Thought:
I’m relatively new to V. E. Schwab’s writing, having only so far read three or four of her books. Lucky for me, there is plenty to catch up on, as she has an impressive catalogue of books to choose from. The Near Witch is an interesting one to read as, although this edition is a new release, it’s actually V. E. Schwab’s first book, re-packaged by Titan Books.
I love it when books get a second wind (as it were) and given the fanbase that V. E. Schwab has now built, this spooky little book now has the audience it deserves. I was lucky enough to see V. E. Schwab speak at YALC 2019, and asked her if she was tempted to edit The Near Witch, or change the text in any way. She explained that the book that was released last year is exactly the same on the inside as the book that was released originally. I thought this was really interesting, as I feel like I would be tempted to go back and re-assess my work – but I guess each book is a product of the time it was written and we would all be tempted to re-edit and re-work things in the past, I’m sure!
The book put me in mind of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, as the history of the witch and the people of Near was revealed, but I’m struggling to find words to describe it, as I’m not sure I’ve read anything like it before – despite reading works from the same author!
Lexi, the main character, is fantastically written, and comes across so well as a girl who knows her own mind, and is determined to get to the bottom of the disappearance of children in Near, despite strong voices dismissing her. She’s a great character for young girls to read – though perhaps with guidance!
The appearance of the mysterious boy rocks Lexi’s life, but can they work together to save the children? The boy has some of his back story explained in this edition of the book, as the short story, The Ash Born Boy is included here…
Once again, I’m happy to recommend a book by V. E. Schwab – it’s great to read her early work, especially with her next book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue expected later this year…
The Near Witch is published by Titan Books.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book to review, but all opinions are, as ever, my own.