V.E. Schwab The Near Witch was published by Titan Books in March 2019. This edition contains an additional short story The Ash-Born Boy and a never-before-seen introduction from the author.
Information about V.E. Schwab:
V.E. Schwab is the No.1 New York Times bestselling author of multiple novels, including This Savage Song and the Darker Shade of Magic series, whose first book was described as “a classic work of fantasy” by Deborah Harkness. It was one of Waterstones’ Best Fantasy Books of 2015 and one of The Guardian’s Best Science Fiction novels. The Independent has called her “The natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones.”
Information about The Near Witch:
All-new deluxe edition containing in-universe short story “The Ash-Born Boy” and a never-before-seen introduction from V.E. Schwab.
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.
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.
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.
REVIEW: THE NEAR WITCH BY V.E. SCHWAB
V.E. Schwab's The Near Witch is one of most enchanting and compelling reading experiences I've ever had in the YA fantasy genre and certainly one that will stick with me forever. This beautiful and charmingly dark fairy tale took me wholly by surprise, because the story is chilling and spellbinding with a strong feel of folklore running through it.
The Near Witch is one of those fantasy novels that will both entice and haunt you, because it has that unique otherworldly and timeless touch of magic to it that is lacking from many modern fantasy novels. Once you start reading it and let its dark atmosphere seep into you, the pages just fly by and you'll find yourself utterly enthralled by the story.
What makes this novel stand out among other YA novels is its harrowing beauty and the irresistible pull of the story. There's something darkly enticing about the way the author writes about the happenings that attracts the reader's attention from the start. This is not your normal run-of-the-mill YA fantasy, because the author has written an excellent story that represents nothing but pure quality.
The Near Witch tells of Lexi, who lives in the town of Near with her mother, little sister and uncle. Lexi knows that there are no strangers in Near, but one night she sees a boy who appears outside her home on the moor. Suddenly, the boy fades away like smoke. Next morning, there are rumours about a stranger that has been seen in the town. The next night, children begin to disappear from their beds and the stranger is blamed for their disappearances, because his arrival coincides with the events. Lexi finds the mysterious stranger, Cole, and believes that he is not responsible for the disappearances. Soon, she learns that her sister has heard the other children calling for her to come out and play during the night and she becomes worried for her safety. Lexi begins to investigate things and thinks that the old story about the Near Witch may be much more than merely a bedtime story...
The worldbuilding is simple yet beautiful and effective. I was impressed by how effortlessly V.E. Schwab created a vision of a small town where everybody knew each other and where a witch used to live hundreds of years ago. The author writes realistically about what happens when a stranger arrives in the town and how fear and uncertainty can make people act in a desperate and terrifying way.
What's intriguing about the story is that the events take place in a historical setting, but certain things are left vague on purpose to intensify the atmosphere and to deepen the sense of fairy tale. I immensely enjoyed this kind of storytelling, because it felt right and fit the story. The use of modern names (Lexi, Tyler etc) surprised me, because this kind of stories don't normally have modern names, but it worked well.
The characterisation is good and interesting. I'm amazed at how fluently the author writes about the characters and their characteristics with a few words without lengthy descriptions. The old saying "less is more" applies to this novel's characterisation, because the author never delves into deep characterisation, but creates fascinating characters nevertheless.
Here are a few words about the characters:
- Lexi is a bit unlike other girls in the town, because she is strong-willed and often does what she is not supposed to do. Her father taught her how to track and how to read the ground and the trees. She cares a lot about her little sister, Wren, and is worried about her safety.
- Lexi's mother is coping with her grief over her husband's death. Despite her grief, she is there for her daughters when they need her.
- Otto, Lexi's uncle, looks after Lexi and Wren. He is a bit overprotective of the girls and tries to keep them safe from harm, because he promised his brother to do so.
- Madga and Dreska are witch sisters, who have powers. They know many things and haven't forgotten what happened in the town many years ago.
- Cole is a stranger who has come to Near. He is a mysterious boy who has a tragic past.
This novel is amazing in one regard: I don't normally like romance elements in YA fantasy novels, because they often feel too forced and stale, but this time the romance elements felt genuinely intriguing. I enjoyed reading about what happened between Lexi and Cole, because the author handled everything in a fascinating way.
The writing is magical and captivating, because the prose has a lyrical feel to it and the events unfold at a steady pace. With her prose, the author creates a straightforward story that reads like a historical folklore tale. Because I've always had a thing for dark stories and folklore tales, I was impressed by the author's way of writing about the strange happenings and how people reacted to the disappearance of the children.
The descriptions about the moor and the wind are wonderfully atmospheric and will surely captivate everybody who reads this novel. The author beautifully captures the isolation of the moors with her writing and does an impressive job at intensifying the atmosphere towards the end. There's something dark and foreboding about her descriptions that appeals to me and stimulates my imagination.
The general feel of this novel owes a lot to the old fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. If you've read these dark and fascinating fairy tales, you'll find this novel charming. There's also something about the story that slightly reminds me of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black.
Before I write the final words of this review, I want to mention that "The Ash-Born Boy" is an excellent short story that sheds light on what happened to Cole. Because I was fascinated by what Cole revealed to Lexi about his past and wanted to know more about the happenings, I found this story compelling. I also want to mention that the cover art looks gorgeous and makes justice to the story.
If you enjoy reading atmospheric tales about witches and small towns, V.E. Schwab's The Near Witch will captivate you. It's a modern classic that will undoubtedly be regarded as a masterpiece within its own genre by future generations. It's a novel that can be read over and over again due to its dark atmosphere and compelling story.