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The Near Witch

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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.

368 pages, Paperback

First published August 2, 2011

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About the author

Victoria Schwab

36 books102k followers
Victoria is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say "tom-ah-toes," "like," and "y'all."

She also tells stories.

She loves fairy tales, and folklore, and stories that make her wonder if the world is really as it seems.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,796 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
460 reviews162k followers
Read
November 7, 2019
I hate that I put off Victoria Schwab's books when I know I'm going to love them. This one is definitely VERY different compared to the work she's releasing now, but I found it enchanting from beginning to end. It felt like a dark fairy tale and I was living for it.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
December 2, 2020
“Funny how when we start to tell a secret, we can’t stop. Something falls open in us, and the sheer momentum of letting go pushes us on.”

A dark and magical tale, that reminded me of The Woman in Black.
I'm a huge fan of Victoria Schwab because her writing and her stories are amazing and unique. An expert in world-building, character-depth and originality, all set in a thrilling and mysterious mood like no other.
The Near Witch is one of the author's earlier works. While it'll never be as good as Vicious or A Darker Shade of Magic (since they're both mindblowing), reading it was just as captivating as any other Schwab book.

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Profile Image for jessica.
2,481 reviews29.8k followers
June 14, 2019
when i saw this in my local library, i thought VS secretly released a new book that was somehow kept quiet. so i was very interested when i found out that its actually a rerelease of her debut novel.

reading an authors debut novel, especially after having read their other books first, can be tricky. all authors have to start somewhere, so if the writing or story isnt as great as a reader might be used to, it can be difficult to remember to not judge. but i do think its always enlightening to see an authors roots and their beginnings. and i think ‘the near witch’ does exactly that.

in VSs introduction, she calls this book strange and quiet, and i cant think of a better way to describe it. this is definitely a subtle story, one that takes an effort on the readers part to invest in because its not written in a flashy or enticing way. but it definitely has an atmospheric, timeless quality to it, as most witch/fairy tale stories do. its also neat to see well-known schwab themes present in this, just showing how consistent her writing has been over the years.

in the end, im glad this didnt come off as a negative reading experience and im happy it randomly caught my eye!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
516 reviews34.4k followers
May 9, 2021
I’m on BookTube now! =)

”The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.”

It’s no secret I’m a huge Victoria Schwab fan so I was very curious about her debut novel and how it would be written. It’s always interesting to see how your favourite authors started out and how their writing style developed and changed with time. This said I absolutely loved and adored the atmosphere in here! Schwab’s writing style in "The Near Witch” reminded me a lot of Maggie Stiefvater’s books and I’m so glad I finally decided to read this! There is something magical about the description of the moor and you can almost feel the wind pushing against the window pane, trying to make its way into the house.

”I catch my breath as the stranger’s eyes find mine. Eyes as dark as river stones and yet somehow shining, soaking up moonlight. Eyes that widen a fraction as they meet my own. A single, long, unblinking look. And then in an instant the stranger seems to break apart, a sharp gust of wind tears through, and the shutters slam closed against the glass.”

So what’s “The Near Witch” about? I suppose you could say it’s a tale as old as time. There is this close-knit community of Near and everyone knows everyone. There are no strangers in Near and if someone visits their quiet village the Council makes sure they don’t stay long. It’s the way Near has been run for centuries and it’s the only way they know. So once a stranger appears and children begin to vanish from their beds in the middle of the night everyone already knows who’s the culprit. Of course it’s the stranger and the Council is more than just ready to do what is necessary in order to get their children back.

”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.”

It’s that kind of fear that is palpable throughout the entire book and it covers the village like a suffocating coat of fog. The more children disappear, the thicker it gets and with every night, with every vanished child, the villagers get more and more restless and desperate to find the stranger. What I really liked about this book was the fact that Schwab didn’t only create a world you could imagine vividly but she also fabricated an environment that displayed a lot of important issues as well. The atmosphere in this is amazing, the plot might be slow but the characters are more complex than meets the eye and every character has its own story to tell. No matter if it’s Lexi’s uncle Otto who means well but only knows what he’s been taught for years, no matter if it’s Lexi’s mother who lost her husband way too soon, but still tries her best to help her daughters to survive in a world dominated by men. There are so many topics that are tackled it’s actually kind of astonishing. “The Near Witch” covers xenophobia, hostility towards women, prejudices, loss, grief and even some psychological themes like self-hatred and feelings of guilt. And yes, it doesn’t even shy away from ethical issues.

”I choose to believe, Miss Harris, that the Council did what they thought was – not right; right is the wrong word. What they thought was necessary.”
“She didn’t kill the boy.”
He finally looks at me. “I doubt it mattered.”


The quote above is so powerful because it’s the people of Near in a nutshell. Everything that’s foreign is bad and once people set their minds on something there’s no turning back. Their ignorance and prejudices made me so angry and just like Lexi I tried to fight them tooth and nail. Magda and Dreska were two of my favourite characters and their unfaltering wisdom as well as their slightly eerie presence made for a great atmosphere. Can I have a Magda and Deska in my life please? =)

”All Near knows.”
“All Near forgets.”
“Or tries.”
All Near tries to forget? Before I can make sense of it, the sisters’ voices begin to overlap, and the sound is haunting.
“But we remember.”


The Near witch was quite a formidable antagonist and some of the scenes actually caused me to get goose bumps. As for the love story between Lexi and Cole: Well, it was pretty insta-lovey but I didn’t mind because the focus of the book was clearly on other things. ;-) I loved the dynamic between those two though and it reminded me a lot of the relationship between Puck and Sean in Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Scorpio Races”. Lexi was a passionate wild child and Cole more the quiet and composed kind of boy. Guess opposites will always attract. Their gentleness sometimes almost killed me. *lol*

He looks out over my head to the east, eyes shining, but I can see the edge of his mouth quirk.
“Look at me,” I say, running my fingers along his jaw and turning his face back to mine. “I’m still here.”
Cole kisses me once, a quiet, desperate kiss. I can taste the pain on his lips, the hint of salt.


All told I loved to read this intriguing story! The early Victoria Schwab was already a great writer and the atmosphere of this book was amazing! By now I think there is nothing Schwab can’t write and I’m really looking forward to read all of her other books. If you enjoy books with a haunting and gloomy atmosphere, if you like tales of witches and are fond of the moor, if you dig a little dash of romance in your tales, then this one is for you! ;-)

_______________________________

I seem to have a thing for witches at the moment and I always wanted to read “The Near Witch” because apparently this is Victoria Schwab’s debut novel. =))

I borrowed this from the library a real long time ago and I definitely want to read it before I have to give it back. I’m really curious if Victoria was already the great writer I now know her to be or if her writing style had rough edges back then. XD

Guess I’ll have to find out! ;-)
Did you read this already and if yes, did you like it?
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
Currently reading
September 9, 2019
Little did I know that all of my works would center on those who felt lost inside their own worlds, or found in someone else’s.

the new cover of this is........... so stunning
Profile Image for B .
99 reviews12k followers
November 4, 2019
Schwab's work is always amazing. I will admit, I was a little worried that her writing wouldn't be up to par with her more recent books since this one was made a while ago but I shouldn't have worried at all. The writing was ver atmospheric and the world was gloomy and fascinating. The character of the Near Witch wasn't your average ghost story and I really appreciate the book for that. Not to mention the ending with Cole's back story!!!!
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,610 reviews5,010 followers
May 6, 2019
‘There are no strangers in the town of Near.’ Lexi’s heard this all of her life, so her home becomes an unusual place when a very odd stranger appears—and events turn darker still when his new presence coincides with the nightly disappearances of young children.

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.

It’s probably pretty evident by now that I am trash for Victoria Schwab’s stories. I think she’s one of the most masterful, brilliant creative minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and frankly, she could publish grocery lists and I would pay good money for them. All of that is to say that, when I learned her long out of print debut novel was being re-released, I was beside myself with glee, but also a little bit nervous, because it can be hard to go back to a beloved author’s roots—after all, not everyone starts out a pro, right?

If the moor wind ever sings, you mustn’t listen, not with all of your ears. Use only the edges.

Well, ha. I worried for nothing, because I opened this gorgeous book, read the first paragraph, and, friends, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I gave the loudest, most wistful sigh. I was home. Victoria’s writing was just as gorgeous then as it is now, and frankly, if you don’t like rambling “gush” reviews, you might as well close this now, because I just want to get emotional and cry at you all a little over how much this story meant to me.

The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.

First, this setting? Flawlessly atmospheric. Never once does the plot or character development suffer for the sake of setting, but I felt so sucked into the town of Near that I could practically smell and feel and hear the moor, right here. I adored every moment well-spent on the grassy hills, the rain, the stones under Lexi’s feel, the old hut the Sisters lived in; it was all so wonderful and poetic.

“They are closer to nature than any human, because it is a part of them. But most people think witches are cursed.”

But when I say this story meant something to me personally, friends, I’m talking about the incredible care Victoria took while crafting these witches. If you ask any pagan or craft-practicing person, they’ll tell you that we’re not used to being painted in such a nuanced light, but here, that’s what I got, and it was wonderful.

“Now her blood is made of moor rain.”
“Now her voice is made of moor wind.”

Now, I won’t spoil the story by saying if the witches are good or bad, or both, but what I’ll say is that there’s a pair of characters—two elderly sisters, who the town is convinced are old witches with no access to the powers of their youth—and they meant everything to me. I’m a sucker for the elderly mentor characters, regardless, but these women, despite being spurned by the town of Near for simply existing, spend their time crafting wards and blessings for the people who abuse them, and something about that just made me downright emotional. The idea that they could be so complex, and that they would continue to take care of people who didn’t deserve their empathy—that’s everything I didn’t know I needed from Magda and Dreska.

“Fear is a strange thing. It has the power to make people close their eyes, turn away. Nothing good grows out of fear.”

The witches weren’t the only characters I adored, though; Lexi and Cole are both incredible in their own rights, but there were quiet, secret, ordinary heroes, too, in Lexi’s mother and her late father. I loved the stories from her dad, and I was cheering every time her mother stepped up to help her or protect her.

I just fell so ridiculously in love with so many of the citizens of Near, just like I always do with V’s characters, and I never wanted to leave them. I feel like The Near Witch is the sort of story I’m going to reach for over and over again, for years to come. It is the most gorgeous kind of fairytale, yet it feels like the kind of thing that’s just odd enough to be real, and I mean it when I tell you that this was easily one of the best books I’ve read all year, and will undoubtedly go down as one of my favorite books, period.

Thank you so much to Titan Books for providing me with this finished review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
774 reviews510 followers
September 27, 2013
It's really easy to see how much time and thought debut author Victoria Schwab has successfully invested into the wording of her witchy kidnapping tale. Each sentence has been set carefully into the mosaic of legends, winds that have a soul and everyday life inside of the small town of Near, which is located within an endless stretch of moor and forest, far away from the rest of the pre-industrial civilization.

Although the description did not interest me at all, when I first encountered an announcement of its publication, enthusiastic reviews of fellow readers whose opinion I value high, made me change my mind: The language skill, the fairytale-like atmosphere, the notions of horror and suspense and a sweet supernatural romance with an unpredictable boy convinced me that I had dismissed a probable future favorite too carelessly.

I bought the book and I moved it up the waiting line. I started reading - and although I truly admired the style, and although I can understand how talking winds, buried witch bones from centuries before and boys that fade in the air lead to fairy-tale comparisons and how the disappearance of one child per night in a tiny, inaccessible community can be labeled "thrilling", I felt neither noteworthily thrilled or bespelled or horrified. On the contrary: Apart from being angry at sexist and mulish uncle Otto, his side-kick Bo and occasionally heroine Lexi herself, I just felt disappointed ... and rather bored. The title of the book gives a lot away, so I practically knew what caused the disastrous deduction of the town's number of inhabitants even before Lexi, who was only convinced of mysterious Cole not being the culprit and who wanted to track and play detective just like her deceased father, who - in contrast to Otto and chauvi childhood buddy Taylor (in search of an obedient little wife among the handful of maidens) - did not look down on his daughter for wanting to do men's work. In addition the rather slim volume turned out to contain a lot of repetitive scenes (looking for clues in the village, listening to the wind, trying to steal out of the house etc., etc.)

Maybe the love story will be grand, I still hoped after a third of the story had been ingested with some drag to the spoon. Well. You have seen my rating. You know how this story ends: Looking leads to wanting to meet, meeting leads to hand-holding, hand-holding leads to kissing and to blind trusting and to secrets being revealed and so on: Instant attraction - or "cabin lust" - for a raven-eyed, silent stranger, because all the other boys are like brothers. Besides, all the time Lexi has no problem at all finding Cole when she wants to, although the angry mob of the whole male population is out for his blood.

Both the dark, restrictive, claustrophobic community and the relationship the heroine had with the boy everybody expects her to wed reminded me strongly of "The Forest of Hands and Teeth", although the latter is a post-apocalyptic zombie story and develops a completely different story-line. If you got the same vibe and know why, please tell me.

I do not want to persuade anybody against reading or buying this beautifully written story with its fitting cover. But if you are still undecided and on the verge of being pushed over the brim by infatuated reviewers, I do advise you to wait a little longer: For more reviews balancing things out and making things clearer - or simply for the paperback.
Profile Image for prag ♻.
585 reviews585 followers
Shelved as 'on-hold'
March 21, 2017
IT'S TIME FOR MY VICTORIA SCHWAB BINGE.

Remember when I said I'd read all her books? Well, I'm finally doing it. Fingers crossed it's good.


-- MY STATUS --

1. The Archived: Read
2. This Savage Song: Read
3. The Unbound: Read
4. Leave the Window Open: Read
5. A Darker Shade of Magic: Read
6. A Gathering of Shadows: Read
7. A Conjuring of Light: Read
8. Vicious: Read

9. The Near Witch: Currently Reading

10. New Beginnings: To Read
11. Second Chances: To Read
12. Last Wishes: To Read
13. The Ash-Born Boy: To Read
14. Warm Up: To Read
15. Broken Ground: To Read

16. The Invisible Life Of Addie La Rue: To Be Released
17. Vengeful: To Be Released
18. Our Dark Duet: To Be Released
19. The Returned: To Be Released

OH MY GOD THERE ARE NINETEEN BOOKS.
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,075 followers
April 11, 2011
"Of every aspect of the moor, the earth and stone and rain and fire, the wind is the strongest one in Near. Here on the outskirts of the village, the wind is always pressing close, making windows groan. It whispers and it howls and it sings. It can bend its voice and cast into any shape, long and thin enough to slide beneath the door, stout enough to seem a thing of weight and breath and bone." *

There are books I like that most people hate. There are books everyone loved, which never appealed to me. And then there is That Book. The one that manages to draw you in from the very first line, and keep you captive. The one that takes simple words and weaves them into a seamless tapestry of colour and feeling. The Near Witch is That Book.

If I haven't gotten the message across yet, I loved The Near Witch. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, YA fantasy deserves more attention. This book is a beautifully-written, magical fairy tale that keeps you enchanted from the very first line, right up to the last. And, it gets an extra invisible star (yeah, thanks a lot, Goodreads!) for being a stand-alone.

The story starts off vivid and lyrical, redolent of the mystery and isolation of the moors. Victoria Schwab, who has the kind of talent I envy, manages to draw a clear and eerie picture of the village of Near, edging the moors, set in stone and steeped in dogma. "There are no strangers in the town of Near," Lexi says.

But there is a stranger in Near, and suddenly, everything Lexi ever knew is turned on its head. The stranger belongs to the dark and windy night, and despite all of Lexi's efforts, she cannot find him at first, even when she knows he's there, and can hear him breath. But the very next day, a child goes missing from his bed, and the already suspicious village of Near points a finger at the stranger. Lexi knows he is not the one, with an instinct she trusts. She can hear the wind calling in the night, if she listens from the corner of her ear. Her little sister tells her that the missing children are calling her to come out and play. And with every missing child, the people of Near get more frantic and look harder for someone to blame. But will they believe Lexi when she discovers who the real culprit is?

It's not just the pretty prose that makes The Near Witch such a compelling read. The story is tightly-plotted and the pace of story-telling gradually increases from a mysterious, measured tread to a quick, breathless run to a rousing, pulse-pounding finish. This is children's fantasy at its finest, with a dash of mystery, a dash of magic and a side serving of romance.

Victoria Schwab's talent lies in her ability to draw an entire portrait with a few words. She never goes into detailed descriptions of any characters, save the two sisters, Magda and Dreska, and the stranger, Cole. The rest are quick sketches of a few words, but those words convey a wealth of impressions. There is Lexi's mother, struggling through a fog of grief, but there when her daughters really need her. Her uncle Otto, fumbling to find the best way to keep his word to his dead brother and protect Lexi and Wren. Otto was one of my favourite characters in the book; it would be so easy to hate him for being such an over protective, macho fool, but one can see, in brief flashes, his genuine concern for his nieces and his desire to do the right thing for his village. Then there is Bo, cool and somehow evil, lurking on the periphery of this story, but still managing to capture the reader's attention.

To be honest, I could just go on about every character in this book— including the dead ones!— each of whom gave me a different vibe. I'm a person who was reared on fantasy, and this book was like my very own gummy bear factory. (Random fact: I don't like chocolate, but I DO like gummy bears!!) The only thing that didn't really wow me the way it was supposed to was the romance. At least at first. Don't get me wrong, I loved Lexi and I loved Cole, and I thought they made a great team, but I was so busy worrying about the villagers targeting Cole and the hunt for the children and the fate of the two sisters, I simply didn't have the emotional energy to spare for true love.

Also, I've been told that the cover for this book has not been finalized, but I would like to add my own plea: Please, pretty please, Disney-Hyperion, DO NOT market this awesome fabulous book with this unbelievably hideous cover. It is WRONG and it doesn't convey any sense of the beauty of this book.

All in all, my friends, it is time for you to groan and shudder because you know I have found a new book to beat you over the head with. I loved The Near Witch, and as per SoP, it is time for me to zealously ensure that everyone around me does as well!

* All quotes in this review are from the ARC and will be checked against a final print edition.

Disclosure: I received this ARC from the publishers via Net Galley. No external considerations affected this review.
Profile Image for nicklein.
401 reviews80 followers
May 24, 2016
This is so underrated I want to punch someone.

The Near Witch was Victoria Schwab's debut novel, yes, the same author of Shades of Magic series. It's actually one of the first yafs I've ever read and loved. I had the pleasure of reading this right after it was released 5 years ago and I still read it from time to time. I read it whenever I feel a slump looming in the background. I reach for it whenever I want something ya but not romance-centered. It's like my go-to book to be honest.

It reads like a fairytale. The writing was beautiful and lyrical and captivating. The vivid descriptions sucked me right in with the first few pages. The story was eerie and had a creep factor. It was eerily and creepily enough to haunt you right after you put it down. I cannot talk about this book without going into full fangirl mode. I can't believe how overlooked this is when it's positively one of the best books ever. Sigh.

If you loved Vicious and/or A Darker Shade of Magic but haven't read this one yet, why the f not? You have no idea what you're missing out. This one here is timeless and breathtaking, an infallible classic.
Profile Image for Hamad.
974 reviews1,284 followers
July 25, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“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 have read This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet, Vicious and Vengeful, City of ghosts, Tunnel of bones, A Darker Shade of Magic, A gathering of Shadows, A conjuring of Lights, The invisible Life of Addie LaRue and the Shades of Magic novels and I enjoyed most of them. It is obviously that I am a fan of Schwab’s book and so I couldn’t just skip her debut, the book that started it all. The book has been republished with a new cover (The old cover sucked to be honest and was the reason why I avoided the boook for so long) and that was my sign to finally read the book.

This book was originally published almost a decade ago in 2011. That time Schwab was still a new unknown author and her book did not get the chance it deserved so she kept fighting until she became one of the biggest names in the industry nowadays and that’s by itself is a great story. I did not have high expectations for the book because I have read her better books so I knew I would be a bit lukewarm about it. I think I ended up enjoying it a way or another. I think that Schwab really really improved. If I have read the book back then I would have told you the author has potential but doing this retrogradely seems futile because we already know she does have potential!

“Funny how when we start to tell a secret, we can’t stop. Something falls open in us, and the sheer momentum of letting go pushes us on.


Schwab’s writing is very unique and I just understand her writing process and what she is trying to do. I think this had a “Schwabic” feeling to it but as someone who read her later books, I think she sharpened her style which I am a huge fan of. I know some readers don’t enjoy it but If I wanted to write like one author, I think it would be Schwab.

The world building is not very intensive because the story takes place in a small town. I felt that the story was atmospheric and chilly. I was hooked during the middle part and wanted to know more. What I think could have been better is the pacing because the story starts fast and I was not convinced about all the uproar in the town because a stranger showed up, simply because we didn’t have time to develop feelings for it. Later the pacing got more steady and better but then it slowed down a bit and got repetitive. The story line is not very special but it was not bad at all too.

“Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own. Right now they take pieces of me with them.”


Summary: This is Schwab’s debut and compared to her other works, it felt like a debut, although a good one. I think the writing was good, the characters were well written. The plot is not very special but not boring at the same time, the pacing could have been done better. I am still happy I read Schwab’s debut and I will certainly continue reading her other books!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Katie.
79 reviews27 followers
July 18, 2012
I stopped at page 82, roughly one-third of the way through.

I am at a loss when it comes to all of the rabid fans of this novel. I found it as dull and drab as the grey skies of moor country.

The writing is stilted. The narrator is boringly typical. The author named the little sister "Wren", which is so nauseatingly whimsical and twee, in the YA world of, missing a parent, girls.

It did, indeed, feel familiar, as the jacket promised, but not in a comfortable, favorite hoodie, kind of way - more like, "Have I read this before?" It reads like a poorly done mash-up of other, better, supernatural YA books, and episodes of WB monster of the week programming.

It's hard to make witches uninteresting to me, but Victoria Schwab manages to do so. Their names? Magda and Dreska Thorne. Oh, boy.

This is paint-by-numbers YA with a large kool-aid drinking fan base (I don't know how else to explain the gushing reviews). I'm so glad I checked it out of the library as opposed to paying for it.

If I sound super harsh, I'm sorry. I'm critical; I've been on a losing streak with books lately, and it's frustrating, to say the least.

Proceed with caution.
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
364 reviews951 followers
July 27, 2019
I rather enjoyed this debut of one of my favourite authors. I knew, going into it, that it wouldn’t be on Vicious’ level, or A Darker Shade of Magic’s, but regardless, it was also quite special on its own.

It was atmospheric, very spooky and chilling...with ghosts and witches...with unwelcoming villagers and lost children...with unsolved mysteries and unjust witch-hunts. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

I’m definitely glad I gave this book a chance, considering that it’s always risky...reading a debut, when you love an author’s later works. It’s also wonderful to see how far they’ve come and evolved over the years, as they’ve honed their craft to perfection.

Lexi was headstrong and protective of her younger sister, Wren. Cole was simply precious and a walking mystery himself. They both worked very well as protagonists, even though their relationship was a tad too instalovey for my tastes. I’d recommend this to anyone in the mood for a chilling and magical tale.

Beware the Near Witch!
June 21, 2019
“I feel connected to you, and I couldn't bear the thought of that being severed. Lost”.

¿Alguna vez han leído un libro que los transporta inmediatamente al lugar en el que sucede, un libro en el que la atmósfera es tan intensa que se siente real? Pues eso pasa con The Near Witch. Es increíble saber que este fue uno de los primeros libros que V. E. Schwab escribió porque todo alrededor de esta historia es misterioso, oscuro y, a la vez, tremendamente poético.

The Near Witch sucede en un pequeño pueblo cerca de los páramos y el bosque. El pueblo de Near siempre ha tenido varias cosas muy claras, entre ellas que nunca debes escuchar al viento y que nunca, bajo ninguna circunstancia, llegan extraños al pueblo. Pero de la noche a la mañana uno de los niños pequeños de Near desaparece y todo coincide con la llegada de un extraño joven que parece aparecer y desaparecer con el soplar del viento. Todo el pueblo está listo para buscarlo y acabar con él, pero Lexi no cree que él sea el culpable, su instinto se lo dice. Así que ella, con sus habilidades de rastreadora, se propondrá encontrar a este misterioso chico para revelar la verdad y poder buscar al verdadero culpable de las desapariciones.

Si bien The Near Witch no es un libro que esté lleno de acción y escenas trepidantes, es un libro que lo vale completamente por la capacidad que tiene V. E. Schwab de crear una atmósfera que trasciende las páginas de su libro. Mientras lees esta historia empiezas a sentir que el viento habla, que los murmullos de las hojas de los árboles son más que eso, que en el fondo de un bosque puede haber una casa en la que viven dos brujas ancianas, que de un momento a otro la persona que está a tu lado va a desaparecer, que es muy posible que exista una antigua maldición de una bruja que murió en las peores condiciones.

Me encantó el tono oscuro que atravesó toda la historia y cómo, poco a poco, Lexi iba desentrañando lo que significaban las canciones y las historias que le habían contado desde muy pequeña. Porque hay muchísima verdad escondida en las cosas que a veces tenemos a simple vista o de las que hemos oído toda la vida. E ir junto con Lexi en ese viaje de descubrimiento de una historia aún más aterradora y ver cómo esa venganza sucediendo con los niños de Near fue fascinante.

¿Y qué decirles de Cole? Creo que, sin lugar a dudas, fue mi personaje favorito de todo el libro. Ya saben que me fascinan esos personajes que no puedo descifrar fácilmente... y Cole fue uno de ellos. Me costó muchísimo decidir si confiaba en él o si todos sus movimientos eran calculados y en realidad estaba manipulando todo a su favor. Pero una vez pasado ese punto de duda, lo amé profundamente. Adoré su personalidad, su voz, su miedo. Cole es tan etéreo como el humo, pero estaba allí para Lexi en los momentos más difíciles. Y, aunque he leído que a muchas personas no las convence el romance de la historia, yo debo decir que lo amé. No fue un romance que siguiera un canon normal, pero esto es fantasía y a mí todo me pareció mágico.

El final del libro, aunque esperado, me gustó muchísimo, sobre todo porque es precisamente cuando se empieza a desenredar todo como un torbellino y no podemos parar de leer. En esas últimas páginas los personajes se enfrentan a un peligro real y, conociendo a V. E. Schwab, no estaba muy segura de cómo se iban a salvar. O si se iban a salvar. Pero no les diré nada más allá de que si buscan un libro con una atmósfera oscura, que rescate toda la esencia de las brujas, del paganismo y de cuentos de hadas con finales macabros, este es para ustedes.

July 17, 2019
The Near Witch

Read the full review and more at Blame Chocolate.

🧙‍♀️ A big thank you to Titan Books for the review copy. This has not influenced my opinion in any way. 🧙‍♀️

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the book I was hoping for. Maybe my expectations and all the hype surrounding everything the author puts forth ended up interfering with my enjoyment. Either way, I just didn’t feel the grip and excitement I was expecting.

I did enjoy parts of it, don’t get me wrong, but I also felt very frustrated by others and especially by Lexi, the main character. I didn’t connect with her and it was hard to understand her very poor decision-making. Also, there wasn’t much about her or her personality that I could pinpoint or pay special attention to because it wasn’t really shown.

I liked the setting and how the characters were made to be perceived, surprising me in turns. I also loved the atmospheric feel of this book and the cleverness Schwab injected in some of her scenes. I mean, I love witches and magic and anything taking place in the moorland will have a place in my heart.

However, the romance felt incredibly dry and unnecessary, and the pace made it hard to stay focused.

I think I ended up enjoying The Ash-Born Boy better than The Near Witch itself, maybe because it was just so much more raw, emotional, and revealing of the main character’s true essence.

While a valiant effort on the author’s part, this is undoubtedly not her best work. But it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s clunky and awkward, intriguing and endearingly naïve. And it’s still a nice story if you’re a fan of hers and would like to see where her career started and how much she has grown. It just isn’t the best she can do.

Edit: after careful consideration, I've decided to drop half a star as it just didn't feel on par with other books with the same rating. (Original rating: 3 stars)

2.5 stars

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Profile Image for Coos Burton.
743 reviews1,265 followers
May 22, 2019
Lo admito: este es mi libro favorito de la autora hasta el momento. Y tampoco voy a negar que el hecho de que se haya volcado al mundo de la magia y las brujas influye en esta convicción. Schwab sabe crear el ambiente perfecto para que nunca se rompa la fantasía oscura que flota en la historia. Es de esos libros en los que me gustarían vivir. Brujas buenas y temerarias, pueblerinos desquiciados que buscan matar a todo aquél que resulte remotamente sospechoso del secuestro de los niños de Near, y mucho más.

En mi canal pueden encontrar una reseña mucho más detallada sobre el libro: https://youtu.be/jRlgoXghGA4
Profile Image for Alyssa.
147 reviews15 followers
August 23, 2011
This book could have been a 5 star read for me. It had a few things going for it: beautiful, poetic writing, an interesting idea revolving around witchcraft, magic and mystery, and raving reviews from fellow Goodread reviewers before the book’s publication date.

But here’s why it ended up a 2 star read instead.

The book is written in the first person, narrated through the protagonist, Lexi. I generally find that first person narration usually works if the voice is witty, engaging and gives the reader insight about the person’s character, their thought process, and how they feel about other characters. With Lexi’s voice, I found no depth or personality other than a stubborn, single-minded determination to protect a stranger she barely knew. She never internalised how she felt about the stranger, no mention of her sense of attraction or intrigue towards him other than her strong conviction of his innocence, which was why the romance part that came out of nowhere at the end felt contrived.

The mystery aspect seemed really obvious and boring. One child after another disappears in the middle of the night from their bedroom with no signs of forced entry. Lexi witnessed her younger sister trying to open the bedroom window late at night in a trance like state but made nothing of it nor told anyone about it. Instead, she goes hunting for physical clues by aimlessly running around at night as if expecting to trip over the culprit when it seemed obvious to the reader that there is something deep rooted in magic going on.

I’m not altogether convinced that Lexi had her sister’s best interest in mind when she went out at night looking for clues considering she has no clear direction or plan of what she intended to do or find. Wouldn’t a better plan be for her to bait the culprit by staying up at night and see who might come for her sister rather than leaving her sister alone at night, unprotected?

This book just ended up being a boring and unsatisfying read.
Profile Image for Patry Fernandez.
461 reviews229 followers
March 12, 2019
Reseña completa -> https://thewordsofbooks.blogspot.com/...

«El viento del páramo siempre será engañoso. Tuerce su voz y le da infinitas formas, largas y finas, como para deslizarse debajo de la puerta, tan gruesas como para parecer de carne y hueso. A veces, el viento susurra nombres tan claramente que, cuando estás a punto de conciliar el sueño, puedes imaginar que escuchas el tuyo. Y nunca sabes si ese sonido debajo de tu puerta es solo el aullido del viento cantándole a las colinas para hacerlas dormir.»

Como todo lo que escribe Victoria, me ha gustado muchísimo. Durante todo el libro prácticamente nos mantiene con esa intriga de que es lo que está ocurriendo con los niños y la búsqueda de respuestas.

Me encanta que se entremezcla en la historia pequeños relatos y canciones sobre el pasado haciendo mas misterioso todo lo relacionado con La bruja de Near.

Además al final del libro trae un relato extra sobre uno de los protagonistas y me encantó leerlo porque así podemos conocer su pasado y el porqué de su comportamiento.
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
852 reviews3,760 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
October 24, 2017
DNFing this at page 77. I hope to come back to this at a later time because I want to read as many of Schwab's books as I can, but I am not in the mood for this at the moment. I have skimmed the past few chapters and still find myself incredibly bored. It's very slow paced and has not built a connection to the characters or setting for me. If I power through now, I will rate it low, so I'd rather try to see if it fits my reading mood better at another time.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,908 reviews1,160 followers
November 19, 2021
I had hope for this book, witches! Children being kidnapped! Supernatural stuff going on in the backdrop of woodland and small village! What can go wrong?

In the end, I can't believe the author actually can manage to make witches and magic and supernatural threat so damn boring.

In the end, the teenage romance/love triangle makes the book feels like one of those run-of-the-mill YA.

The writing is fine (but not so fine if you compared it to the likes of Neil Gaiman's), and the same can't be said to the characters, the suspense the author obviously tired to create (but failed) and the story.

To spice things up, when children are disappearing from the village one by one, our heroine still believes without a doubt that this hot young stranger she had just met JUST HAS TO BE INNOCENT.

To spice things up, the heroine's little sister is called 'Wren'.

And it's supposed to be the first book of a series? No, thank you. I see no reason why the story has to last longer than one book.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,337 reviews1,822 followers
April 10, 2021
This was Schwab's debut and it certainly reads like one.

While I like the concept of this story and enjoyed how it unfolded in the beginning, it did start to lose me because of the insta-quick romance and the various antagonists, particularly the one who was our main character's age. Almost every character felt rather flimsy, to be honest, almost as insubstantial as the witch. The few exceptions were a few female characters; the lead wasn't bad but I preferred the old crones of the town and the sense of sisterhood both in the family and that permeated the general atmosphere. It was a nice counterbalance to the fact that 98% of the male characters were terrible — I don't mean terribly written but just terrible people.

What added an extra heaping of disappointment was the fact that the love interest was one of the the only male characters that didn't quite suck and in the added bonus short story? Well. I had felt something for him in THE NEAR WITCH but in THE ASH-BORN BOY it sort've all faded away. Wasn't a fan of that short.

I get the point was likely to just preserve the original and reprint, as opposed to revise something that once existed, but I think this could've been made so much better. And it's a shame it wasn’t. This could've been great.

The setting and sordid history of it all gave me some Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic vibes, but YA, and I was very into it. Schwab does well with imagery and description. But thankfully her characters have come a long way since these early days. I'm glad I read it, particularly having just revisited another early series of hers (which thankfully was just as good on reread), but this wasn't quite it.

----

This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for paige.
546 reviews614 followers
August 4, 2022
"Stories are always born from something."

°•*⁀➷

I enjoyed this so much. A dark fairytale, entertaining and witchy, and perfect for Halloween reading.

Lexi is headstrong and living in a world that doesn't give her the opportunities she deserves. So she does everything she can to prove that she's worthy of them. When a mysterious stranger comes to town and children start disappearing, she's positive she can find out where they are and why they're being taken. So she takes to the night, and... falls in love. Following her journey through this mystery was fun, spooky, and enchanting. And we love to see an insightful young girl prove everyone in town wrong.

There's a certain kind of magic to a book that has so much hate in it, but shows you that love always ends up prevailing in the end.

- Paige
Profile Image for Kendare Blake.
Author 41 books54.7k followers
November 11, 2011
The Near Witch is...elegantly creepy. The Near Witch is....organically pretty and organically gross. Victoria Schwab's debut is one of lovely, moody, atmospheric writing. You'll smell the fresh baked bread. You'll breathe deep of crisp moor air. And you'll get gritty, loamy, dirt all up in your nose and mouth and eyes. It's quite the experience.

I enjoyed the determined spark in protagonist Lexi. I enjoyed that I wanted to throttle those characters struck with mob-mentality. Or at least I wanted to lay in wait in the moor grass with a bunch of blow darts and a sandwich. I enjoyed the naturalist witchcraft of Magda and Dreska, the wise old crones.

Check this one out. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Ellie.
571 reviews2,061 followers
March 10, 2019
Schwab herself calls this book “quiet and strange”, and it is true. There isn’t a clear place in the market for it. Perhaps because of that, it feels more like a whimsical, timeless story than any of her others. It could just as easily be written ten years ago or fifty years ago.

I found myself thinking it would make an excellent movie, something gothic by Guillermo del Toro perhaps. Because this book has so much ATMOSPHERE. Schwab’s writing style is a bit more florid than usual, and I‘m a big fan of it. It evokes the desolate but powerful beauty of the British moors, which is something I’ve never seen in any book (beside the Bronte novels), and I loved it.

On the flip side, there were some things that rubbed me the wrong way. One of the reasons it’s so hard to pin down genre-wise is because I *assume* it’s fantasy, but it could also be British magical fabulism set in a timeless era in the past. Yet the names felt too contemporary for it to be a historical novel, or even a fantasy, which led me assume it was a contemporary fantasy at first. It could still be, who knows. Names such as Lexi and Cole and Tyler didn’t seem to fit the story as in my mind they’re too ... new. (But then again, I have problems with Schwab’s naming in all of her very first books until Vicious, lol.) The romance was very quickly developed, but one could argue for a book less than 300 pages, it’s to be expected. I also don’t think it should have been sold as YA originally either; the characters are teens, but it really doesn’t feel like any standard YA novel, in my opinion. It’s too whimsical and fairytale-esque for that, and those books fare better sold generically as “adult” fantasy.

Really though, I loved it. It has the strange, magical, gothic feel I prize as a reader and enjoy seeing in books.

Thank you Titan Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Iris.
543 reviews252 followers
July 24, 2018
WOW! I cannot believe this is Schwab’s debut! This was, in my opinion, one of her strongest works! I mean, maybe not *quite* Monsters of Verity or Shades of Magic good, but close! It was a stronger book than The Archived, and I liked it better than Vicious.

Because wow, this book was spectacular! Everything about it was just wonderful!

Let’s do a list of things I liked, shall we? Because I like lists, and also because there was literally nothing I disliked! (Except for the fact that it was so so good, and a fairly short book, and therefore not long enough. Or maybe I’m just mourning the fact that I have now read all of Schwab’s published works (except for the middle grade series about angels that I still can’t quite believe she wrote…))

- The GORGEOUS writing! I mean, it was by Schwab. What did you expect? But still, it’s worth mentioning, because it was AMAZING!!!
- I sort of love her writing style.
- Okay, maybe more than sort of.

- The creepy, atmospheric, amazingness!
- This book was sooooo creepy! I finished it late at night, and well. That went well for my sleep. (Not.)
- I swear, it was SO creepily written. It gave me shivers, and terrified me out of my wits, but in the very best way.
- Seriously. So creepy. Deliciously creepy. And I LOVED THE CREEPINESS OF IT SO MUCH!

- The world building! It was unique and eerie and atmospheric, and lovely.
- And by lovely I mean the world was terrible, but it was amazingly done.
- Because that’s what lovely means, right?

- The CHARACTERS!!
- I sort of adored Lexi. She wasn’t necessarily the *most* unique YA heroine out there, but she was likeable, and she was memorable.
- Lexi was a bit of a rebel. She didn’t like being told not to do something, and so she had a tendency to do it anyways. She was bright and fun, and a caring older sister.
- Cole was also awesome. He was a sweetie with a tragic past (which, let’s face it, is a wayyyy better trope than a bad boy with a tragic past), and I adored him. He was sweet. He was really, really sweet. But he also had a lot to him. His backstory was super sad, and also really interesting!
- I loved Cole. A lot.
- Like, a lot a lot.
- Wren was adorable. Seriously, she was SUCH a sweet, hilarious child. She was a very no-nonsense five year old, who couldn’t be tricked by silly stories.
- She was the absolute cutest.
- And the sibling relationship was beautiful!

- Then there was the romance.
- Okay, I have to say, it was SO insta-lovey. Ridiculously insta-lovey.
- But you know what? I don’t care. The romance was sweet and cute and I shipped it REALLY HARD.

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! There’s so much I’m missing, but OH MY GOSH, I JUST LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!! You should DEFINITELY go read it! Right away. Just don’t be dumb like me and read it late at night.

***Initial reaction, July 11, 2018***

It is midnight. I am incredibly creeped out. I'm not going to be able to sleep for hours. It was worth it. RTC.
Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
443 reviews126 followers
March 22, 2021
This is V.E Schwab’s first published work, which shows. In a good way, because it shows just how much she’s developed as a writer and story-teller.

It annoyed me a little I learned so little about the world this was set in. We barely even learn much about the village Near. We learn a little about social structures, how women are supposed to do womanly stuff and men do man stuff. But I had some issues trying to create a picture of how the world looked and functioned in broader strokes.

The story is familiar, because it’s been done before. Children going missing in the dead of night. New (if there is one) person being blamed for it. Search for the guilty one. It’s short and simple. But is still atmospheric at parts.

Schwab’s writing has also definitely improved miles since this book. I wasn’t to fond of the writing style in this one. I am also not fond of first person present tense and it didn’t really do it for me in this one. It doesn’t run smoothly for me.
Profile Image for Hillary Hunt.
274 reviews19 followers
September 13, 2011
Victoria Schwab's writing will rope you in with its lyrical loveliness, I will say that. But the actual plot of the Near Witch is rather ho-hum. After all the swooning reviews I read for this one, I was expecting more. Here's why it didn't capture my fancy:

Not much suspense. You pretty much know what's going on the whole time, there are no surprises.

The book is written in first person, from the pov of Lexi. And yet her character came across as very vague and nondescript. I did not understand where her drive came from.

The romance was flimsy and unsupported by the story. They go from strangers to devoted to each other over night. Blink and you'll miss it.

The stakes were too low. You pretty much know there's no bite in this book when you're reading it. Makes you care less.

The whole plot just felt undercooked. There just wasn't a lot there. The story felt....small. And I don't mean in length, I mean in depth and development. I wanted more. I wanted more of who Lexi was, who Cole was, why they were attracted to each other, more suspense, more fear. I wanted there to be more explanation of why Lexi was so compelled to sneak out every night. I wanted Otto to do more than just huff and puff. I wanted a compelling reason to care or worry about the characters. But like I said, it stayed small, thin.....I don't know how else to describe it.

So that all may sound harsh, but honest to goodness I think Victoria Schwab is a wonderful tailor of words. But that was not enough to make this book captivating to me. If you want to best show off a well tailored suit, you need a good frame to hang it on.

My favorite bit:

"My Father used to say that change is like a garden.

It doesn't come up overnight, unless you are a witch. Things have to be planted and tended, and most of all, the ground has to be right. He said the people of Near had the wrong dirt, and that's why they resisted change so much, the way roots resist hard earth. He said if you could just break through, there was good soil there, down deep."

Profile Image for Tara ☽.
300 reviews233 followers
April 22, 2020
I always forget that reading YA from circa 10 years ago means I'm much more likely to be punched in the face by unconvincing insta-love
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