Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Schwab
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
ARC, 282 pages
Date Published: August 2, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
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. 
The Near Witch is an exquisite folklore-ish tale that has hints of the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Victoria Schwab’s storytelling is intriguing, invigorating, and has this ethereal quality to it. The words almost float off the page in a lyrical, melodic way.

Lexi is strong and determined, fierce and unafraid to speak her mind. She’s everything the oldest daughter with a dead father needs to be in a house with a ghost of a mother and a twinkle of a sister. Her willingness to accept the stories her father told her is what separates her from the rest of the town of Near. She’s open to her world, to the moors, and the witch stories. And she’s curious, not fearful of a stranger in the town of Near.

And boy is that stranger mysterious. Dark hair, dark clothes, and bathed in an ash-like embrace, Lexi aptly calls him Cole. The town’s fear of Cole, of his strangeness, hangs heavy in the book. It’s felt in every page, with every disappearance. Schwab’s penchant for making the story of the Near Witch tangible for all the townspeople is astounding. Her descriptions of Near and of the moors and the woods makes the setting a character all its own.

The secondary characters create an image of a tiny, isolated town with a storied past and many ghosts. Magda and Dreska Thorne are two witches that are practically shunned, but who I couldn’t get enough of. Their thinly veiled warnings and knowledge of the town is a treasure to be cultivated. The two of them command every scene they’re in, demanding the reader take notice. Their traditions and beliefs add so much to an already perfect tale.

Victoria Schwab has melded the folklore-ish town of Near with the realities of love, distrust, and a constantly creeping undertone of fear. Not only is the lyrical writing beautiful, but it is impressive and vibrant. I could hear the wind whistle through the air, the trees rustling, the twigs cracking, and I could taste the ever-growing fear of the townspeople. Countering all this is the intense connection between Lexi and Cole, as well as Lexi’s memories of her father and the stories he used to tell her. The pacing – much like the mystery of the story – builds slowly, but surely, capping off in a crescendo of frantic heartbeats and wild actions.

The Near Witch is one of those books that take you by surprise, sweeping into your consciousness and filling your head with tales of witches and mysteries and fairy tales come true. It’s a bedtime story gone wrong, with the Near Witch rolling in as fast as and as swift as the fog. It’s impossible not to feel an inkling of the childhood terror one gets at the thought of monsters under the bed. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again, so I can experience the wonderment of such a deeply enchanting and striking world. Victoria Schwab’s debut is a knockout that has left me eager to see what magic she churns out next.

Opening line: It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages (I have so many, so narrowing it down is hard):
“Believing and knowing are different things,” says Dreska, returning to the table.
“Knowing and proving are different things,” says Magda. ~ pg. 168
I had to have Dreska and Magda, but love this one too:
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. ~ pg. 186

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
This one's vying for my affections as favorite book this year
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Victoria Schwab online:

Pre-order it online:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indiebound

And because I like to torture myself with a little public humiliation, here's The Near Witch rap:


~The Book Pixie said...

This sounds like a book I'd love just as much as you did. Which is great because I won a preorder of it back in...November. XD So hopefully it'll be here before too long. Amazingly written review as always. Gosh I wish I had your way with words. :D


Candace said...

Wow! That is one well worded review! Seriously, one of the best reviews I've ever read. It says it EXACTLY right. Glad you loved it so much! Though I knew you would!

Denise Z said...

I have been following this tour and so want to read this awesome book by this lovely author. Thank you for sharing today.

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

The Book Pixie - I hope your book arrives soon because you're going to love it!


Denise Z - I'm not part of the tour, but I'm happy to hear you've been following along with it. Victoria deserves all the attention and so much love for The Near Witch because it is incredible!

YA Book Queen said...

A truly stunning and well thought out review! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one :)

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

YA Book Queen - Thank you so much! I'm happy I loved it too. It kinda blew me away with the pretty and the lyrical and the moodiness. Victoria's writing in beautiful.

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