Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review: The Near Witch

by Victoria Schwab
Start Date: 19 August 2011
End Date: 31 August 2011
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Hyperion Books CH

Summary (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.

My Review:
Wow. I wasn't sure how much I would like The Near Witch, but I have to say - I loved it. Victoria Schwab is an incredible writer. Her way with words is amazing. I wish I could have read The Near Witch in one delicious gulp, and I am planning to do that in the future. This time around, however, I was interrupted by FOOF, as I knew I had no chance of completing the FOOF challenge if I took the time to read only The Near Witch. But even that couldn't stop me from reading it. I gravitated toward this book even though I had been planning on reading others. I usually don't have a problem reading multiple books, but this one sucked me in so completely that I had to talk myself into reading the others much of the time. When I finally finished it (in the middle of the night - I couldn't put it down once I reached the climax), I made myself get out of bed and write down notes for this review, lest I forget how wonderful it was.

I don't often say this, but I cannot think of anything that would make this book better. There was nothing I was unhappy with, no plot point I felt was unexplained, no slower (some would say "boring") sections. I loved all of the myths and stories surrounding Near and the Near Witch. And to make it even more wonderful, the entire book feels like a fairy tale retelling. Even though it isn't, I almost wouldn't want to read the original fairy tale because Schwab tells the story of The Near Witch so well.

I loved Lexi's character. She felt so real, with her own strengths and flaws. She never plunged right in without thinking and for the wrong reasons, and characters are likely to do. She seemed so rational that it was refreshing to read from her perspective. I loved discovering, along with Lexi, more and more about the semi-mythological Near Witch, who plays a larger role than one first suspects. And I loved Cole without even knowing why. Even at the end of The Near Witch, neither Lexi nor the reader knows that much about Cole, but there's enough there that I can deem him as perfect as the rest of the story. Enough is revealed that I'm not searching for more depth. There is far more that no one knows about yet, but it's not revealed because Cole is keeping it hidden, not because Schawb is being lazy or underdeveloping her characters in any way.

I've already talked about how much I love Schwab's writing. Every word counts. But rather than try to explain it any further, I thought I'd include an excerpt instead:
I reach a nest of homes just south to the sisters' cottage and the center of town. Houses are sparse on the eastern side, as if the villagers lean, like grass, away from Magda and Dreska.
     I'm cutting through the cluster of houses, thinking over my plan, when a small boy darts out, followed by the muffled protests of his mother. Riley Thatcher.
     Eight years old, and as sharp as a bundle of sticks, Riley sprints across the yard, stumbles in the dirt, and is up again in a blink. But in that moment, something is different. Missing. He's already heading for another house when I catch sight of the small thing left behind in the weedy grass. I kneel and lift the sisters' charm, the pouch of moss and sweet earth, its cord now broken. (Schwab 175)
Do you want to read it yet? There's no way I can describe her writing. I'm no Victoria Schwab.

Even though the story is perfect in itself, and I don't want to change a bit of it by adding a sequel, I really hope there is a sequel. To quote Fly By Night, "I don't want a happy ending, I want more story."

Overall Thoughts: Wonderful. Perfect. Highly recommended.


Small Review said...

I'm so glad you liked it! Wasn't that scene at the end with the Near Witch creepy? I loved that visual

Pica said...

Yes, that was one of my favorite parts! I wanted to include it in my review, but I thought it was too spoiler-y. It was wonderfully scary and fantastically written.

the Vintage Bookworm said...

God, I've been DYING to read this book. It's been on my list for a while, but I haven't been able to snag it yet. Great review, I am so glad you loved it.

Also, Victoria is HILARIOUS on Twitter!

Pica said...

The Vintage Bookworm - I don't have a twitter, but Victoria's also fun on her blog. And I highly recommend this book. It's so incredibly good. If you get any chance, pick it up.


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