A town with
one no strangers, vanishing children, and a bedtime story about a witch.
Brand new edition of Victoria Schwab’s long out-of-print, stunning debut
All-new deluxe edition of an out-of-print gem, containing in-universe short story “The Ash-Born Boy” and a never-before-seen introduction from V.E. Schwab.
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.
Title: The Near Witch
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publication: August 2, 2011 by Hyperion Books
Target audience: Young Adult
Disclaimer: Thanks to Titan Books for gifting me a finished copy of The Near Witch.
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Even V.E. Schwab had to start somewhere.
It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark.
First of all, I have to mention that Schwab is my all-time favourite author. I love her writing and her ideas, and I was thrilled when her debut novel was announced to come back to bookstores.
It is not often that you’re so used and attuned to an author that you immediately notice when something’s off. But this is the case for me and V.E. Schwab, and it was really obvious that this is one of her earlier books.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad book! But when you’ve read Schwab’s other books and have seen her work her magic, The Near Witch isn’t up to par. And yet, you have to keep in mind that this book has been written 8 years ago, and that Schwab has grown both as a person and a writer. Judging this book with only her other books in mind isn’t the right way to approach this. As we say in German: “No master has fallen from the sky yet.”
My father used to say that change is like a garden. It doesn’t come up overnight, unless you are a witch.
I’m a sucker for fairy tales, witches, magic and creepiness, so this seemed like it would be the perfect read for me. These themes were actually what I liked about The Near Witch, but sadly there were also some things that I didn’t like.
Schwab’s writing is good, even though this is her first novel. It may not be in the same league as her writing nowadays, but it’s still enjoyable and manages to deliver that creepy atmosphere of the book. Especially the descriptions of the moor and the wind were great and made me afraid to ever go outside again.
The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.
The Near Witch is written in first person, and that’s where my problems with this book start. I am not the biggest fan of first person narration. For it to be good, you really have to like and identify yourself with the narrator.
I did not really like the protagonist and narrator Lexi.
Maybe dislike is too strong a word. I just didn’t care for her or understand her. She was pretty bland and typical.
The other protagonist is the mysterious stranger Cole. I am not sure what’s up with me and sad, lonely boys but Cole is great. He is my favourite character in this book and that only got confirmed after reading the short story The Ash-Born Boy that is included in the new edition of The Near Witch (I’ll come to that later). Actually, I think that this book could’ve been a lot better if Cole had narrated the story. Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that.
There is something in him, distant and sad, this thin boy, his hollow eyes and his singed travel cloak.
Let’s talk about the big issues.
I was honestly shocked about Lexi and Cole’s relationship. Big, fat insta-love. That’s usually not Schwab’s style. I mean, insta-love is common in YA, but I thought we killed off that trope. Another evidence of The Near Witch being one of her earlier books.
The pacing. Probably the biggest mood killer in this book. It’s very slow and at times even boring. There’s no real suspense or mystery. After all, you just have to read the title or the synopsis to know who kidnapped the children. I think The Near Witch would’ve been a great short story, like an original fairy tale, y’know? But there’s just not enough plot for a complete novel.
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.
It told you I’d be coming back to the short story The Ash-Born Boy, didn’t I? Well, that story is proof that The Near Witch could’ve been amazing.
It is basically Cole’s backstory. And it was so much more interesting than the rest of the book. Cole has an actual personality and feelings as opposed to Lexi and I devoured the story. It was also written in second person and I feel like that was another bonus point.
“Let them think you a demon or a god,” she said. “Let them fear you. It does not matter.”
I’d recommend this book to hardcore Schwablins and fairy tale lovers.
Have you read this book? What do you think? Are you a V.E. Schwab fan? Let me know down below in the comments!