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, 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.
I was incredibly excited to dive into Schwab’s debut novel, The Near Witch, to see where it all began – and I was not disappointed.
This was a bone-chilling, atmospheric read, that I most certainly regretted reading in the early hours of the morning, with nothing but my (not very bright) bedside lamp lighting my room. Schwab sets the atmosphere wonderfully, I felt incredibly creeped out and scared of the uncanny (the wind!!) and I was glad my window was tightly shut. This is something Schwab does wonderfully in more recent works as well, she has a strong grasp on tone and creating atmospheric settings that feel incredibly real.
That was the strongest part of the novel. In other places, it feel flat for me. Maybe it’s just me liking details and particulars, but I really wanted to know what time this was set in (did I miss it). I felt like there were modern idioms used, which felt out of place and juxtaposed the sort of medieval setting. There was just a lot about the world that did not make sense – and I wasn’t able to let this go.
Secondly, Lexi tired me out with her constant running! She was constantly running from one place to another. Often, this didn’t even make sense – I don’t get how she was able to run from people who were, in some instances, described as being close to her? And then she’d rest, like they never noticed / couldn’t catch up to her. How fast does she run????
The characters / emotional stakes fell flat. I think it was because of the constant running, (yet, I would say this didn’t have much action for a large chunk of it) that I don’t think time was spent delving in to and exploring the familial & romantic relationships. Thus, even when profound moments happened, they were sad/happy based on that circumstance, but it wasn’t particularly moving.
But I did love reading this. I think it was great to go back to the earliest released work of Schwab, and to see how much her writing has grown and changed over the course of her career. This, by no means, was a bad book. But in later works, her characterisation & plot development became much stronger. I’m excited to continue to follow her work.
3 out of 5 witchy stars.