Title: The Near Witch
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Published: Re-release 2019 (Original release, 2011)
Source: Finished copy, gifted by the publisher (Thank you!)
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.
‘It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark.’
I went into The Near Witch not really knowing too much about it except for the fact that it was a re-release and that it involved a witch but you know, it’s by V. E. Schwab so I was immediately interested.
There are some books that you just know you’re going to love or hate within the first few pages and with this one, I knew almost immediately that I was hooked within it’s grasp. It ended up taking me about four hours to The Near Witch as I read just under half of it on the way to Victoria’s Forbidden Planet signing in London and then the remainder of it on my train back home.
The Near Witch follows Lexi in the small village of Near, where everybody knows everyone. Lexi lives with her mother and sister after her father passed away. She carries her father close to her and he is a big influence on her throughout this book. I liked the character of Lexi. She is interested in gathering the facts but also is open minded and almost fearless. As children go missing in Near, she makes a decision to try and find them in her own way whilst trying to also avoid her Uncle, the protector of Near. Before the children go missing though, a stranger turns up in Near. There are never strangers in Near and this one comes at a time before all hell breaks loose.
The time that The Near Witch is set in is a strange one. It felt as if it was set in the 1600/1700s with the talk of witches, but then it also felt almost like it didn’t exist at any specific time at all. When writing this review, I also realised that the village of Near is just a place, it’s not specified that it’s any country which is interesting as you’re then just focused on the place itself. Near just exists.
The plot is fairly fast paced with plenty of mystery and intrigue that draws you in and doesn’t really let you back out until the end. I can vouch for this considering I read it in four hours. I though that the writing really contributed to the pace of the plot. The writing is different to but I feel it is still distinctively V’s. It’s descriptive meaning that you can really imagine the people and places quite vividly.
I think it’s difficult to compare it to V. E. Schwab’s more recent works as she has really developed as a writer in the past 8 years since The Near Witch was originally released. I was a bit wary going into this book that perhaps there was a reason The Near Witch didn’t do so well when it was originally released – was it because it wasn’t that great or was it simply because it wasn’t the right time for it to be released? However, upon reading it, I do think that it was just that timing wasn’t right. It is a quirky little book that might not work for everybody, but I liked it and thought that it was a fairly quick read.
Whilst I enjoyed this book and read it so quickly, I’m still hovering between 3.5 and 4 stars with this book. I should clarify that for me, a 3 star rating doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that I liked the book. I enjoyed it and got through it quickly, but I didn’t love it and I probably won’t re-read it. I think it is a great book for September/October when Halloween is approaching and Autumn is starting to really set in.
One of the questions I have asked myself, when thinking about the rating, is if I’d have read this back in 2011 as a 15/16 year old, would I enjoy it? It’s hard to tell because my tastes are obviously a bit different to how they were 7/8 years ago but I do think I would have enjoyed this book back then too.