Title/Author: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.
Publisher: Hyperion Books.
Source: Received at BEA.
Favorite character: Lexi.
All in all: Beautifully written, spooky story.
Synopsis: "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. ~Goodreads.com.
My Thoughts: (Contains Spoilers!)
"Listen..." This is what Victoria Schwab wrote on her inscription of The Near Witch to me. I almost shivered when I read it as it gave me a delicious hint of what was to come. So I did listen as I read this book. Schwab describes sounds with as much variety and nuance as if each sound has its own personality. Branches snapping, clothes whipping, birds calling, but the biggest character is the wind and how it sings and moans and cries.
The writing is astoundingly beautiful and I found myself re-reading passages so I could bathe in them. The words are rich and lush and so is the myth of this story and the lessons as well. The characters are simple yet very strong as their actions convey their character and what is in their hearts.
Although Lexi's father passed away, he is still an important character as her memories of him guide and soothe her. His wisdom and gentleness make him as alive as Lexi and in a way because of his role in her life, he is. I also really liked her mother, who though still grieving, does all she can to help Lexi. I love that she has faith in her daughter and doesn't try to make her something she is not.
It is also interesting that the two characters who are dead are not really dead. The Near Witch and her father. They balance and contrast each other. One who means harm and one who is trying to fix things. I also love how Lexi takes up her father's mantle. His sense of right and wrong is instilled in her.
Swoonworthy romance. It was kind of instant, but not really. It was very believable as Lexi first tries to find the stranger, whom she names "Cole," then protect him, then finally save him. I love the dynamics of fear that is present in the small town. Fear of strangers, fear of the unknown, fear of change. Rash decisions are made, history may repeat itself unless Lexi can solve the mystery and find what she needs to complete her tasks.
The only thing that I had a small issue with is that she had to keep going to the woods over and over again. I was frustrated. I wanted her to fix the problems even though I knew she just didn't have time and had to be home by dawn. However, this also served to build tension as she had to outwit and outrun several people who are working directly against her.
There are some heartstopping moments and I honestly didn't know which way fate was going to serve Lexi. The story is full, the characters are colorful and the writing is absolutely delicious. If you haven't read The Near Witch yet, try it soon. It'll go perfectly on a crisp Autumn evening.
One more thought-contains spoiler:
I really wasn't sure if Cole was going to die at one point. I was very upset, but I also thought it would still be a good story. Bittersweet for sure, but sometimes a good story does not always have a happy ending. I am glad that he lived and now he and Lexi can live happily ever after.