Friday, September 13, 2013

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - Ashley's Review

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Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Schwab
Year Published: 2011

My Pre-Reading

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.


Review: The synopsis for this book calls it "part fairy tale, part love story," but it is SO much more than that. There's loss and sadness and mystery and horror and lessons about understanding and acceptance and beautiful world building and so many other things that are all woven together so intricately that this story is unlike anything I've ever read. This book gave me all of the feels, and had me laughing one minute and crying the next. Victoria Schwab is a literary genius (and this was her debut!). 

Fairy tales are my favorite kind of stories, and I especially love when there are new stories incorporated into books. The story of the Near Witch is terrifying enough to be a true fairy tale, but it's still different enough to be its own thing. If I was a child and I heard the story that Lexi tells Wren, I would be scared enough not to go out onto the moors. That witch is crazy - especially after how she was treated. And speaking of witches, I love how there are hints of magic and their "craft," but most of what they do is connected to the Earth and its elements, which I love. I mean, I love witches of the Harry Potter variety too, but I think those that are more connected to nature are the most interesting.

Victoria creates characters that are deep and dynamic and is constantly molding and changing them throughout the book. Lexi is strong-willed, independent, and hurting, but she also cares deeply for her mother, sister, and friends. She is willing to go to great lengths to protect them, even if it means defying her uncle's orders. And even though she remains those things, she matures quite a bit and becomes a more well-rounded version of herself. And then there's the stranger boy. He's mysterious and quiet, but he holds so much pain within himself that it's kind of ridiculous. I think he's my favorite character in this book, and I love his relationship and interactions with Lexi. All of the more minor characters are excellently crafted as well, and I found myself wanting to know more about their background and their lives and more of why they do the things they do. 

As I was reading this book, I never wanted to put it down. The whole story flows just like a fairy tale, and never gives too much detail or not enough. I can't even begin to fathom how Victoria pulled this out of her imagination, because the world and character building are phenomenal, and everything about Near is just so gorgeous and precise. I felt like I was walking around the village, or out on the moors, or in the sisters' cottage. I could feel the wind and smell the dirt and the wildflowers. Everything about this book is just wonderful.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has read and loved any of Victoria's other works, but hasn't read this one yet. And to anyone who enjoys fairy tale books or books about witches or love stories or fantasy books... and to pretty much anyone. Because I honestly think there is something in this book for everyone. This book is one of my favorite reads this year, and I'm so glad I finally got around to buying and reading it. Definitely a 5/5 from me! 


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