V.E. Schwab is one of those authors who you only ever seem to read rave reviews of (as far as I know anyway!), so the fact I’ve only read two of her books – and that was while ago – makes me feel like I’m missing out big time. But, never ending TBR list, amiright?
Anyway, this year I planned to read more of Schwab’s works and get myself up to date, so when Titan offered to send me a copy of The Near Witch, I couldn’t say no*!
The Near Witch was Schwab’s first novel, originally published in 2011, and has since been long out of print. However this month we see a brand new edition published by Titan Books with a beautiful new cover and exclusive content in the form of short story The Ash Born Boy and an introduction from the author herself. Keep reading for the synopsis and my spoiler free review.
“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.”
Lexi has heard these words all her life, but after she sees a stranger outside her own home, who seems to disappear before her eyes, she starts to think that maybe these aren’t just stories after all.
The day after the stranger appears, the young children of Near begin to disappear from their beds without a trace, and the small village begin to suspect the stranger.
As the search for the children becomes more desperate, Lexi begins to trust the stranger and unravel the truth about the people of Near and the witch who is just a bedtime story.
Within only a few pages, the atmosphere in this story hung heavy like a blanket over my shoulders. It felt dark, magical and mysterious but with the perfect balance of lightness – I loved it. From the first few pages I was hooked into the plot. Who was this stranger? What did they want? Where did they come from? And once the children started to go missing I just had to keep reading.
Set in such a small location, there wasn’t much room for extreme world building but personally I don’t think this story needed it. We were immersed into the plot from the beginning, with information about the town of Near and it’s history woven seamlessly into the story itself so we didn’t feel overloaded.
Similarly with the characters, we got to understand them and their motivations through their actions and words. I particularly loved how Lexi is like “oh this is how you expect me to behave just because I am a young woman? Well F*** THAT!” She wishes she had trousers to wear and runs around in her late father’s boots carrying his knife. Yes! Despite me loving this side of Lexi, I definitely found the stranger more interesting and exciting and would liked to have heard more from him. Though I guess that’s maybe the point?
I wouldn’t call this story fast paced as we spent a lot of time following Lexi and the stranger as they try to uncover the truth about the town of Near and find the missing children, which did mean a lot of time travelling around the moors (I did seriously question how they managed to spend so much time running with basically no sleep? Pls tell me your ways). However I felt that as the story developed the sense of urgency increased which had me gripped.
The story took a few turns I wasn’t expecting, particularly as I had pretty much decided I knew what the stranger’s story was which I was definitely wrong about, but these unexpected twists only added to the overall appeal of this book.
V.E. Schwab’s writing was just as spectacular as I expected – if I didn’t already know that this was her first novel I would never have guessed it! Like I said in the begin, this story was so frickin’ atmospheric, it definitely had that old school fairy tale vibe.
I began this story expecting a sort of middle grade tale, however it became quickly apparent that this is definitely more young adult. If you’re looking for a chilling and mysterious story featuring some (admittedly a little insta-love) romance, witches and the craft, a beautiful yet creepy setting and small town drama then The Near Witch is for you! This new edition will be published on the 12th March and you can get your hands on a copy here.
*Copy of the book sent for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Not sponsored or paid for.