All-new deluxe edition of an out-of-print gem, 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.
The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab was published by Titan Books on March 12th 2019.
No trigger warnings.
It comes as no new news that V.E. Schwab is one of my favourite authors, her books are automatic adds to my TBR list and until recently I’d read them all except The Near Witch because it was no longer in print. This was Schwab’s first books and you can see how her writing has improved but I really enjoyed this story. The Near Witch read like a fairytale, and like all of Schwab’s book it has an incredible setting.
“The wind was here when you were born, when I was born, when our house was built, when the Council was formed, and even when the Near Witch lived.”
There are no strangers in the town of Near, but one night outside her window standing on the threshold of the Moors Lexi sees a boy she doesn’t know. It seems like a dream but come morning the town is buzzing about the stranger who arrived. Until the next night when a child disappears from their bed, taken without a trace, and suspicion falls on the only new arrival there’s ever been to the town of Near.
Lexi is determined to find out what is happening, and that determination only becomes more urgent when more children disappear and Lexi fears her sister will be next. Before he died Lexi’s father taught her all he knew about tracking, and despite her uncle’s attempts to mould her into what a young girl should be Lexi can’t sit back and do nothing when she knows everyone is looking in the wrong place. Lexi is protective of her sister, who is a free-spirit and wants to go and play with her missing friends who she can hear calling to her on the wind.
“You really are like him, your father.”
“I can’t tell whether you think that’s good or bad.”
“What does it matter? It’s simply true.”
I loved Lexi’s relationship with her family. She chafes under her uncle’s rules, and as more and more children go missing she finds herself standing on the opposite side to him. Her uncle clearly loves Lexi and wants to protect her, both from whatever is taking Near’s children and later the town itself, but his idea of protection is to keep her safe at home and Lexi was raised by her father as a tracker. Lexi’s mother tries to keep the peace, but I loved the small ways she still supported her daughter. Lexi’s mother can’t find the children, but she can help by silently supporting her daughter.
Her search leads her to the Thorne sister’s and the stranger in the town of Near, a boy with no name Lexi calls Cole. Near is becoming a powder keg and with every chapter, with every missing child, the story got more tense. Lexi has to fight harder against her uncle who only becomes more determined to keep her out of the investigation, and as well as tracking the Near Witch Lexi and Cole need to evade the townspeople who want to see Cole punished despite his innocence.
“Fear is a strange thing,” he used to say. “It has the power to make people close their eyes, turn away. Nothing good grows out of fear.”
I loved Cole’s character, he’s running from something in his past and although he originally intended to only pass by Near he was stopped when he felt something powerful on the wind. He’s a quiet character, content to let Lexi take the lead, but there’s a lot of grief in him as well because of what he did that has him running from his past. I liked the relationship between Lexi and Cole, they both offer the other someone they can be themselves with, but it wasn’t one I felt strongly about.
“Long, long ago, the Near Witch lived in a small house on the farthest edge of the village, and she used to sing the hills to sleep.”
I do wish we’d got more of the Near Witch though. I loved how her story was so woven into the setting of this book – what happened to her had become nothing more than a fairytale parents told their children, the towns equivalent of a bogeyman – but V.E. Schwab has created some incredible villains and in some cases I felt the Near Witch was lacking a little. She felt more myth than an actual force Lexi and Cole needed to face.
Have you read The Near Witch, or is it still on your TBR list?
What did you think of Lexis character, did you enjoy her dynamic with her uncles and the small ways her mother supported her? Do you think the balance of fairytale and villain when it came to the Near Witch was well written?
Have you read any of V.E. Schwab’s other releases, which is your favourite?