Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab

Synopsis: "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. 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.

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.

Review: I don't know if this is considered a "paranormal romance," but if it is, it is one of the best I have ever read. The Near Witch uses a technique which I really like: the village of Near feels very isolated, while at the same time not giving the entire impression that it is totally cut off from the rest of the world, yet cut off enough that the strange occurrences aren't out of place. And the Author never says whether or not Near exists on Earth, or somewhere else, adding on to the eerie, unreal feel. It was dreamlike, and parts of it echoed the Gothic elements of Wuthering Heights, even though the two stories are completely different.

The characters are, for the most part, good. I quickly became attached to the silent, mysterious, sad Cole (the strange boy). The Author brought out his personality in every aspect of his appearance and behavior: his clothes, pale and thin figure, and how very little he talks. These small things really brought depth to him. Lexi, too, is a very strong-minded, resourceful girl (and my Readers know how much I like those) who, despite her hatred for female pastimes, manages not to have The Attitude or get on one's nerves - at least, not always. The Author also does a good job of making certain characters really easy to hate, which is actually a great many; there is not a large number of helpful characters.

Now we come to the writing. I normally do not like first-person present-tense, but it somehow worked exceptionally well for this particular story. The writing is elegant and pleasing, as well as thoroughly eerie and frightening at times. The Author captures the nature of wind - its sounds and touch - in an uncanny manner, reminding me once more what it felt like to lie in my bed some cold winter night when I was very little, listening to the breeze's beckoning call. At times, things grow a little strange (especially at the end), and it was a strangeness that, had it been in any other book, I would not have liked. However, it worked quite well in The Near Witch.

My only real complaint was the romance between Lexi and Cole. It was not nauseating, nor did it lead to inappropriate scenes. But a romantic involvement did not seem to suit Cole's character. There are those characters who are meant to fall in love, and those who are not. Cole did not strike me as the type of character who was supposed to fall in love, and I was sorry that it happened. And while I liked the ending of the book well enough, I had another ending in my head which, had it happened, would have pushed this book up into my Top 10 list - easily. However, the Author was clearly not like-minded when it comes to killing characters, and I am content to accept her decision not to.

The Near Witch is a perfect book for some late, winter night, when the wind is howling outside of your window, and you sit curled up under a pile of blankets in a chair or bed, a cup of hot chocolate at hand and a candle or two. You will be reminded of what it was like as a child.

Overall Rating: {{{{

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