Monday, August 1, 2011

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion Books CH (Disney)
Age: Young Adult
Species: Human, Witch
Rating: 5/5
Interest: Cover Lust/ Hyperion Books/ Awesome Title/ Fairy Tales

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.

 I have these obsessions. One is Ireland, specifically their moors, second is witches especially elemental ones, third is fairy tales and fourth is good song lyrics or stories. Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch combines all of these elements creating an intoxicating and magical debut. I was swept up in the book almost from the first page.

I adore characters who willing suspend their disbelief when it comes to magic and I love them when they're as entranced and excited as I am by it. Lexi toed the line between child and adult. She was clearly smarter than many members of the village with great intuition, but no one would listen because she was young and a girl. Lexi was full of fire and conviction, but she was willing to listen to both sides of a story. Characters who prize fairness and justice over prejudices and fear are automatically endeared to me. I'm kind of big on equality.This is going to sound a little odd, but I truly believe Lexi is a child of the moors with her own kind of magic. She's connected to her homeland like some people are connected to their iphones. (As my sister said, that's pretty dang connected.)

Cole, sweet Cole, I love that name ridiculously. He was a sweet and tragic character. His presence wasn't... very present. He was so unobtrusive he might as well have been the wind he controlled. I'm trying to think of how to phrase it. Some young adult characters make instantaneous connections, become the movers and shakers of their world, practically spitting fire in their wake. Lexi is one of those, the people you immediately love or find annoy you. Cole is one of the ones that sort of slinks into your heart and mind, completely under the radar. By the time you feel like you should love him, you already do. Cole was mysterious but determined. Once he decided to help, he was all in. I think that was the kind of unconditional support Lexi needed.

Strangely I really liked the side characters in the novel. Lexi's mom, her sister Wren, a village mother and Magda and Dreska. When I was younger, I would watch the movie Practical Magic and I would wish, more than anything to be Sally. I would also wish that I lived under the care of the aunts, Frances and Bridget, played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest. Magda and Dreska were like the book version of these two which made me love them. For some reason I kept drawing parallels between that movie and this book, like the setting, the sheriff, the aunts and other things.

Victoria Schwab is a magnificent world builder and origin story maker. I could feel the magical/ fairytale voice easily throughout the entire book. The Near Witch sounded like a very real Irish fairytale. I actually began researching to see if The Near Witch was an established story, unfortunately it isn't. However, with Schwab's new release I am very, very, very hopeful it will be become a true fairytale with time. Or, at the very least have the witch's rhyme become a song little children sing. (Yes, okay, I confess, I'm going to sing it to my child when I have one, along with Soaring and I'm Gonna Fly by Sydney Forest are you happy now?)

Overall The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is an enthralling, enchanting and flat out wonderful debut. Please add this adorable little book to your to be read pile. Believe me, you won't regret it.

Teaser Line: I stare at the closed door for several moments before my head clears, and I realize what my mother has given me. A Chance. I take a deep breath and follow her into the kitchen, ready to convince her, and find her adding sticks to the fire,  a healthy stack of wood beside the hearth. Her eyes find mine. And they aren’t empty. She wipes her hands on her apron, points to the open kitchen window, and says only one word.

 One perfect, sharp word.


Happy Reading,

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