The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
The Near Witch is my favorite book of 2011, so far. And considering that it’s August, it will most likely stay in the top 3. After the first three chapters, I started reading the rest of the book one chapter at a time because I didn’t want the experience of discovering the story to end. I would dole out each chapter like a reward; if these 5 things got crossed off the to-do list, then I could read a chapter of The Near Witch. Then, when I got to the end, I put it away for a few days so that Lexi’s and Near’s story could really sink in. I found myself thinking about scenes and conversations. After not being able to get it out of my head for almost a week, I reread it in one sitting, amazed by how wonderful it was. I think it may have been better the second time around. I, personally, love books that get better each time you read them and The Near Witch is most definitely one of those books.
The town of Near doesn’t often get strangers walking through or visiting for that matter. But the night after Lexi sees a stranger out on the moor, a child goes missing. The stranger, a boy who seems to fade into the night is blamed for the disappearance. As more children are found missing, Lexi knows she needs to help find them. Despite being told repeatedly that she is not to look for the children, Lexi, with the help of the stranger whom she named Cole, continue their own search. Something about what is happening in Near, keeps bring Lexi back to a story of witch who used to live in Near. Can the story be a clue to what is happening and perhaps how to find the children?
The Near Witch is a breathtaking mix of fairy tale, fable, historical fiction and fantasy. It’s all of those blended together so well, that it is really hard to pin down one word to describe it. If I were going to book talk The Near Witch, I would say that it reminds me slightly of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, with a mystery and some romance mixed in. The writing is what carries the story. Victoria Schwab knows exactly how to set the scene without over explaining; it was easy to picture the characters and how the town of Near was set up. Plus, all of the characters felt so real. Lexi and her sister, Wren, jump off the page from the beginning. And as the story progresses and more characters were introduced, the same was true of them too.
I really enjoyed watching Lexi and Cole (the stranger) get to know each other. Their relationship really gets going as they are searching for the missing children and trying to figure out the mystery of the Near witch. Their scenes together are just perfect. But, as much as I like Lexi and Cole, my favorite characters are Magda and Dreska. The two sisters live on the outskirts of Near and are also believed to be witches. They give Lexi little pieces of information; sometimes making perfect sense and not making sense until much later. I like to think of them as Near’s real protectors. I was just drawn to them for Magda’s first scene with Lexi and I looked forward to seeing more of them.
There is so much to say about The Near Witch that I’m afraid that I could go on and on. But, I think this is a book that a lot of people will enjoy. If you liked fairy tales as a child, then you will like The Near Witch. If you like reading mysteries, or books with strong female main characters, or books that are about family (because there is a definite family component), or books that have slightly scary settings - I could go on. So I think I’ll end by saying, read The Near Witch, you won’t be sorry that you did. You may even find a new favorite book.