21 Sept 2022

#Review: THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab


Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: The Near Witch #1
Source: Audiobook from Audible
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Overall Rating:
Diversity Rating:

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. 
Amazon | Chapters | TBD
As a bonus to the audiobook, there was also the short story The Ash-Born Boy, so this is a quasi-review of both.

Lexi knows certain truths about the town she lives in: the Near Witch is just a story, the wind is lonely and looking for company, and there are no strangers in the town of Near. But a stranger appears out of the mist, and children start disappearing. Lexi knows he isn't to blame, that she can trust him, and as they search for the missing, Lexi discovers she needs to know more, more about the Near Witch might not just be a story, more about the calling wind, and more about the stranger without a name.

There’s a bit of magic in reading an author’s first book, especially when you know and love their later works. Guess what I discovered? Schwab’s ideas have always been original and her prose has always been impressive. This story is simple in scope (but not in a negative way). It‘s about a small village attacking one particular problem. It’s a mystery of sorts that kept me guessing.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the book I was hoping for. Maybe my expectations because I've read all of her other books and loved them meant that I wouldn't enjoy this as much. Either way, I just didn’t feel the grip and excitement I was expecting.

It felt a lot like reading the Lament duology by Maggie Stiefvater - good but not their best work, and probably worse for wear since I had consumed so many other and more recent novels first. And in all fairness, it was originally published in 2011, so instalove and underexplaining were all the rage then.

I thought Cole was a little underdeveloped which made the romance stale to me, but having the short-story explain more about him and his past really brought him up in my mind. There was so much more I wanted from the romance there and the interactions that we didn't get. Instalove was way too real here and it made me roll my eyes. Not only did Lexi not know him, but he barely spoke the entire time he was on screen! Infuriating. 

I think if you're interested in reading it and have been a fan of Victoria Schwab, you'll probably enjoy it. But otherwise it's a miss for me.

Have you read this book? Are you going to pick this up?

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