Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch

Author: Victoria Schwab
Release: August 2nd 2011
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, YA


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.


Darn it, Schwab. Darn it. You did it again, enchanted me with your flawless storytelling.

I went into this knowing not the littlest thing about this book. I only knew, after reading The Archived, that I wanted more of Schwab's brilliant writing and simply went ahead and bought this. I didn't even read the blurb, nope, I passed Go and went straight to book.

So, starting this, I was a bit confused. Took me a while to realize this is a story set in a made-up village, and an old one at that. One where they don't have electricity and water closets. And then I was all like "YAY", because for whatever reasons, I do love me stories that take place in historical settings.

Anyways, I was still waiting to see what this is all about and I was a little bored for the first sixty pages, but soon I got my first rush, because we finally meet this stranger and the children start disappearing and it's all very bleak and angsty, but I liked it. It fit the story. After about page 130, I was irrevocably hooked. The plot has those thriller/horror elements to it, which I already found in Schwab's The Archived. I think she definitely has a knack for leaning towards murder mysteries and stuff like that. I loved it, though. Always adds a nice thrill to the story.

But, the characters are making a lot of this. I really loved Lexi, might be because I'm a bit biased, seeing as it's a nickname for my own name, and I've been called that a few times before. But, she was a very strong and determined heroine, she stood up for what she believed in, trusted her gut instincts, and she did what she was told. Well, I mean she wasn't a scared little wimp staying home when her uncle told her to, no, she disobeyed her uncle on a regular basis, but if it meant risking her own or her sister's safety, she could actually do the right thing! She was a real catch in the big pool of risky, dumb heroines. She was no damsel in distress either and could save herself, if only by landing a few punches. You go, girl.

Cole, our male lead, was mysterious at first, so that I personally was drawn to him a little like a good clich├ęd girl does, much like Lexi. But, and I think the author did this brilliantly, he didn't stay the mystical, brooding guy — No, we actually get a back story. A character arc! Oooh. I liked his story, it fit to explain his motivations and reasons for doing everything he did. And those motives were honorable ones. Plus, Cole was simply a nice, cool guy, wanting to right his wrongs, being there for his girl, all that. He was likeable. 

Besides our main characters, there were also a bunch of others that were cool. Mrs Harris, Lexi's mom, was awesome. She did her own quiet rebellion against her brother-in-law's orders, helping her daughter because she simply trusted and believed in her. And that even though she was still grieving her deceased husband, or as Lexi put it, being a ghost. She was a real, caring mom. Then there was Mrs Thatcher, who was the bomb. And Madga and Dreska were eccentric, but ultimately very clever and supportive, and just all in all really fleshed out. Basically all the characters were alive, and I really enjoyed this cast. Schwab has a gift for making her characters come alive on the pages.

Last but not least, writing. The sole reason I picked this up in the first place because I was a big fan of Schwab's writing style after The Archived, like I said; and booooy, I am even more of a fan after reading this. Her prose is so beautiful and her metaphors create such vivid images in my mind, it makes the world bloom behind my eyelids. I simply cannot put into words how amazing her writing style is. It's the perfect balance between purple prose and hacked off writing, and it has a very pretty lyrical quality to it that I adore. Just, see for yourself:

I can see him juggling the words inside his head. Fumbling. I tried to juggle once, with three apples I'd found in the pantry. But I just ended up bruising them all so badly my mother had to make apple bread. (...) I wish Cole would give me an apple. And then he looks at me, and there's the same sad, almost smile, like he's decided to pass me one, but he knows I can't juggle either. Like there's no reason for both of us to bruise things any more than needed.

“Well, you were right. The wind is a tricky thing. As is the rain and the sun and the moor itself. The wind can creep into a person's lungs, make itself heard when they breathe out. The rain can leave a chill in a person's bones.”

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.

I make my way through the moonlit world, between blue-gray shadows on blue-gray ground, watching the blue-white circle in the blue-black sky.

Dude. Seriously. That is some beautiful, breath-taking writing right there.

The only thing bugging me about this is that cover. It's not pretty. I don't like it. The font looks really random and not-elegant, and the model is covered in a hazy film, like looking into a dirty mirror, which was quite possibly the whole point of the cover but it just looks sloppy. 

So, in conclusion, I highly recommend The Near Witch. It's only roughly 280 pages anyways, so really not much but definitely worth it. I am now a self-proclaimed Schwab cultist.

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