Date: August 2, 2011
Series or Standalone: standalone
Format: hardcover, 288 pages
First line: It starts with a crack, a sputter and a spark.
Things that make me happy: A good song. A fantastic story. Dreams. Romance. Beautiful words. Things that require the suspension of disbelief. Magic. Getting lost in a world that isn't my own. Hope, passion and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the extraordinary can happen to the most ordinary people.
There are very few places in life these things all come together. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is one of them.
I've read a lot of books. A lot of books. I also love a lot of books. If you read my reviews regularly or have a conversation with me then you know that. But I say to you now that The Near Witch is one that will forever stand out to me as an wonderful novel. Why? Well, it has all those things I listed above, for one. For another, I wrote a freaking rap song about it. I wouldn't do that if I wasn't devoted. Thirdly, I love it. It's a flawless re-telling of a story you've heard before but never knew and something you'll never hear again. (I kinda stole that from the book flap---but it's so completely true.)
On the surface, the town of Near is a place like any other. It's a community nestled in the moors, on the edge of the forest, where no strangers dare to tread. The town is safe, quiet, and protected. The only things to fear are the old tales of the Near Witch, which spread through the town like echoes of an old song. But beneath the surface of these tales lie more secrets than anyone knows. When children start disappearing from their beds at night and a strange boy appears in the town, the truths that have been buried for centuries begin to surface. The town condemns the boy--except for our heroine, Lexi--who is determined to save the children of Near, protect the stranger named Cole, and discover the truths the town has kept as quiet as a whisper.
I talk a lot about writing in my reviews, about this ability that some authors to have to completely floor you and create a line that's so powerful it etches itself into your soul. Victoria Schwab does this extremely well. Her lines all so elegant, powerful and read with a grace that I could only dream of possessing. Every beautiful description is flawless and so vivid I felt as if I was there every second of the book, racing through the trees and listening to wind with Lexi. I could die just thinking about the world she so beautifully created. There's a good balance here between what we are told, what we see and what we get to make up ourselves that demands praise and attention.
The characters in The Near Witch are so incredible. They each have their own story, own actions and purpose. I love that they are all flexible. What does that mean? Schwab paints them all very distinctly, yet lets the reader create their own picture of what the character looks like. It's like Van Gogh or Picasso where it's unmistakably one thing, but it has the possibility to be something else. Every character in the story is like this--and they all jump off the page and into the heart. It lets them take on a life that's a little bit of what they were created to be, and a little bit your own.
Since I'm talking about characters, I need to mention my love for the sisters, Magda and Dreska, as they are two of my favorite characters in any book. I love their descriptions, their voice and role in Lexi's story, the mystery they bring with them and the wisdom that these two characters seem to carry. It's almost like Schwab pulled them out of the deep recesses of real life and placed in Near to offer guidance, snarky remarks and a sense that when all is hopeless, everything will be alright.
Another wonderful thing about The Near Witch is the romance between Cole and Lexie. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's a good romance. The best part about it is that it takes nothing away from the overall plot of the story, but it adds to it completely. The two of them together are a fantastic team and with everything happening around them, you can only root for this girl who wears muddy boots and this boy with a burnt robe. Their story will be one you want more of and when it's all over, you know they lived happily ever after because there's no way they didn't.
As much as The Near Witch is a book of passionate words, of love and of truth, it's also got it's share of creepy. I'd me amiss to not mention that. It's done in such an lyrical way that the effect is greater than anything else you'll ever read. This is a wonderful fairy tale, with love, enchantment and creepy queens who poison apples. (Ok...Not really. There are NO poisoned apples or queens! But there is plenty of edge-of-your-seat creepiness.)
This is a book you'll be reading to your children. It's going to survive the times and become a story that everyone knows. It's that kind of book. It has that kind of power. You won't want it to end, you won't want to stop reading it, and you won't be disappointed. The words will haunt your sleep (in a good way) and you will love it. The wind has a song to tell...and you should listen.
I mean, this is the stuff of legends. And songs have already been written about it. If you don't then you will miss this mesmorizing book that's not only a stunning debut, but a surefire classic.