March 15, 2019

REVIEW| The Near Witch (#gifted)

The Near Witch
V.E. Schwab

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UK Publisher: Titan Books

UK Release Date: March 12th, 2019

DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher, for free, in exchange for an honest and truthful review.  My views are all my own.

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.

 If you're going into this expecting the flawed perfection of Vicious, or the high stakes of A Darker Shade of Magic then I'm about to tell you to step down now, because The Near Witch has no comparisons. Instead, you should perhaps look at it as a debut that is a feast of atmospheric and beautifully crafted writing, characters that leap of the page and somehow perfects the strange and quiet storytelling that suitably fits this modern fairytale. 

"Of every aspect of the moor, the earth and stone and rain and fire, the wind is the strongest one in Near. Here on the outskirts of the village, the wind is always pressing close, making windows groan. It whispers and it howls and it sings. It can bend its voice and cast it into any shape, long and thin enough to slide beneath the door, stout enough to seem a thing of weight and breath and bone. “The wind was here when you were born, when I was born, when our house was built, when the Council was formed, and even when the Near Witch lived."

From the get-go, The Near Witch is a story of sisters, mothers, and women alike.  Lexi is strong-willed and rebellious, driven by the need to protect the children of the village as well as her little sister Wren. Exactly like the kind of heroine that this story needed to entice me into the strange little village of Near. 

I loved the two witch sisters, Magda and Dreska, and how they encompassed the strange and otherness of the elemental magic in the story and would have loved to have stayed with them for longer on the page. This is the trouble with debuts, every word, every scene, every stray sub-plot gets erased from the page unless it serves the story 100%. I would have like to have spent more time with Lexi and the people of the town.

For writing alone, I would have given this five stars, however, the romance sub-plot left me rolling my eyes, just a teeny tiny bit; very much like the YA of its time.  However, even though it falls into the trope of insta-love, I couldn't help but get that warm fuzziness I get during fluffy contemporaries - hand holding and heads on laps are just my greatest weakness, okay? 

“Funny how when we start to tell a secret, we can’t stop. Something falls open in us, and the sheer momentum of letting go pushes us on.”

A highly underrated story, The Near Witch is a highly recognizable debut novel that could be seen as the umbrella that encompasses all of Schwab's later works; it's the start of a thematic thread that has been tied and unraveled into each one of her stories since:

"...the fear of the inside toward the outside, the antagonism between those who belong, and those who don't."