Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Paranormal YA, Fantasy YA
Published: August 2, 2011
Summary: A darkly romantic young adult novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who lives on enchanted moors. A strange boy arrives in her small village, and right away, children start disappearing.
THE NEAR WITCH was a beautiful, slightly creepy read that I could not put down. It enthralled me completely. Victoria Schwab’s language was lyrical and lovely, and the story was a wonderful confection that was somehow both comforting, familiar and old while also being gray, mysterious and new. Because we have no sense of the time or place of this story, it seems to exist in that always-time of fables and fairytales, stories that are so old and lovingly worn as to be woven into our cultural conscious. The moor on which the story is set was very atmospheric, and the village of Near seemed exactly the way it was described: small, tight-knit, isolated, and wary of change and new things. It was a great setting.
The characters, too, were great. Lexi was brave and smart and wonderfully sweet to her adorable sister Wren. Her uncle, Otto, was one of those conflicting characters who did things that made you scream but you always understood that his motivation was genuine and admirable. I enjoyed his character, and the way he interacted with Lexi, always butting heads with (at least one-sided) good intentions. Cole was a great character as well. Mysterious and wary, and then sweet and warm. I really liked him. His relationship with Lexi was great, but perhaps one of the weaker elements of the story, just slightly. Once it got going, it was wonderful, but it seemed to me to start a little out of nowhere. Also, some of the secondary characters seemed a little flat, especially the “bad guys.” Bo and Tyler were there only to be big jerks. Tyler, at least, had a little more story with his trying to snag Lexi, who had been his good childhood friend. But then he turned into a back-to-school-special crazy boyfriend guy, jealous and physical. He seemed on a few occasions like he could unhinge at any time. And Bo seemed like he was already unhinged in a crazy person kind of way, always smirking and looking creepy. They were just bad with nothing redeeming, unlike Otto, who did unlikeable things but had depth and was often conflicted about things.
Overall, though, THE NEAR WITCH was fantastic. Well- and beautifully written, with great atmosphere and history–I loved the folk histories and stories of Near and how tightly woven into the community they were. And the main characters were likable and well-rounded. I couldn’t put the book down, especially the closer the book got to its conclusion. Very well done and enjoyable.