YA Fantasy, 282 pages
Acquired and read: Via the local library cooperative, and read within twenty-four hours
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.I've been looking forward to this for SO LONG, and I'm so happy that it's lived up to my expectations.
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 writing is...for lack of a better word, scrumptious. The cadence and feel resemble a genuine fairy tale, but with enough of a modern edge that today's generation won't feel out of their depth. Lexi wandering the moors feels as familiar and chilling to my heart as searching in the woods for Baba Yaga and her chicken-footed hut, or Gerda following The Snow Queen's footsteps in order to rescue her beloved Kai.
Also, Ms. Schwab gets the action going right away. From the first page, we know what's going on and what's at stake. Children are missing. A new (handsome, of course) stranger has arrived in Near. Lexi instantly captivated me as a heroine who both loves her family and is willing to follow her heart - and when she's in trouble, she doesn't a) break down and cry, b) attempt to snag a sparkly, exsanguinated boyfriend who can fight her battles for her, or c) both of the above. Very refreshing. (I also loved Magda and Dreska - I understand why Lexi likes to hang out with them as much as possible.) All the factors melded together to make a flawless, breathtaking story that I know I will want to visit again in the future.
I was a fan of Victoria Schwab even before I read the book, but this has pretty much ensured I'll be a fan for life.
Warnings: None. Unless you find long-dead witches coming back for vengeance too much for your heart to take.
Final verdict: YES. (I should find some way to get a graphic of a red stamp so that it looks all official.)