Bookish Wednesday: The Near Witch

Near is a town that borders the wild moor. For centuries, the grass, the weeds, the flowers, and the stones have overgrown the bones of truths that were once known. Nothing remains except tales of witches and great power. Lexi is a young woman who listens to the moor. It calls to her gently, and she listens as one might look out of the corner of one’s eye. When a mysterious stranger arrives in Near, Lexi’s life is turned upside down. Children begin to disappear from their beds whilst the wind sings them a song. A town in denial and filled with fear, Lexi attempts to unravel the threads and find the missing youngins. The stranger and the remaining witches fear for their lives. Lexi could face banishment, but better that than to live a life of loss.



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The re-release of The Near Witch, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel, brought to life a beautiful book, both in the art and in the story. It did not disappoint. Her narrative prowess is deeply illustrated by the ebb of the story as it gently sweeps you under. Much like the wind’s song, you find yourself coming up for air that won’t suffocate you. The story is beautifully written. There are no slow bits, and the build-up is exquisite. Schwab managed to tell a story of loss, of hope, and of sisterhood in just 252 pages. At the same time, she explores themes of deception, honesty, and fear as they interweave with the plot.

To bring so much content in such a short span of pages, you might think that she must have skimmed on something, but that isn’t the case. Victoria Schwab's descriptions set the mood. The way in which she presents the invisible lines between Near and the moor, you’d think that you stand in that space of in-between. You are in the town of Near as you read. You feel the shivers go down your back as you read about the Near Witch. Your stomach rumbles while injustices shine through the book. You will definitely get the heebie-jeebies and you will find yourself looking over your shoulder. This book manages to be just unsettling enough while still capturing your attention.

The Near Witch borders between the realm of Young Adult and the world of books that swallow you up whole, no matter your age. The tone, though dark, has lighthearted moments. The worldbuilding is incomparable, and it leaves just enough space for you to conjure up images that are not restricted by modern conceptions of places.

In this rerelease, Victoria Schwab also includes a short story: “The Ash-Born Boy”. This story tells the tale of the mysterious stranger that arrives at Near, and it’s a story of abuse and heartbreak. It’s a story of being told to hole up deep inside yourself, where no one can see the parts of you that aren’t quite so “normal” or “pretty.” However, though this short story is sad, it’s still heartbreakingly beautiful.

My favorite scene is when Lexi sees the vulnerability of Ash. He allows himself to lose control for a brief second, but it’s enough for Lexi to get through to him, quite literally. In this scene, when the wind whips around them, and in the aftermath, both characters emerge transformed. Lexi develops a deeper understanding and a deeper appreciation for magic, whilst Ash allows himself to start the healing process from his immediate past of loss.



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I highly recommend this for fans of Neil Gaiman, Kiersten White, Erin Morgenstern, and even if you don’t know of any of these authors, I recommend you pick up this book for the sheer merit of it. The prose is beautifully written, and the characters will take residence in your heart. I give this five out of five stars.

You can buy this book at The Bookmark, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobles.