The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch

by Victoria Schwab

Sixteen-year-old Lexi, who lives on an enchanted moor at the edge of the village of Near, must solve the mystery when, the day after a mysterious boy appears in town, children start disappearing.

Reviewed by Kelly on

4 of 5 stars

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In the quaint town of Near, the Near Witch sings the hills to slumber each night from her resting place on the moors, the children sing as they play throughout the village. Sixteen year old Lexi Harris remembers the stories her father told her as a child, of the Near Witch and village children who we welcomed to play in her garden, a centuries old fable told by generations of Near, until a boy was found in her garden and the witch was banished to the moor.

Since her father passed away, Lexi lives with her younger sister Wren and her mother on the fringe of Near, the witch whispering on the winds that swept through the moor each night as a stranger arrives in town and Near is awash with speculation. Whispers on the wind are waking children from their slumber, lured into the forest in their nightgowns and disappearing and the town suspects the stranger is stealing their children.

Centuries past, the Near Witch lived on the Near fringe, her cottage garden captivating the village children on the moor. The children of Near sing the fable of the fated witch who sings the hills to sleep at night. If you listen carefully, you can hear her calling on the winds that swept through the moors.

Near is a grudging, prejudice community, thriving on restlessness and governed with a firm hand by three archaic council members, while a vigilante group gathers to restore order. Lexi and sister Wren lost their father three years prior, their father a wonderful man who believed in the folklore of Near and taught his children consideration, independence and to appreciate the Near folklore, including Magda and Dreska Thorn.

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.

Magda and Dreska are the eldest residents of Near, living on the fringe of town on the moors, as the Near Witch once lived. As a young girl, Lexi and her father would visit the sisters who have been ostracised by the village community. The witch siblings are providing the stranger with refuge as the children begin to disappear during the night. Lexi suspects the Near Witch, the villagers accusing the stranger of abducting their children. Lexi is intrigued by the newcomer, his secrets and his story, the young man with the dark fathomless eyes and ashen skin. He is nameless, homeless and Lexi is determined to prove his innocence.

The villagers are positively dreadful, dishonest and vengeful, incredibly chauvinistic. At sixteen, the girls within the village and allowed to legally marry and often betrothed. Women are bakers, seamstresses or homemakers, Lexi consistently reprimanded for wearing the workboots and knife of her father who taught his daughter independence. The men of the village refusing to listen to the resolute young woman who begins skulking around the village at night in the hope to discover where the children have gone.

The trees all whisper, leaves gossiping. The stones are heavy thinkers, the sullen silent types. He used to make up stories for everything in nature, giving it all voices, lives. If the moor wind ever sings, you mustn’t listen, not with all of your ears. Use only the edges. Listen the way you’d look out the corners of your eyes. The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.

The Near Witch is enigmatic and enchanting, immersed in mesmerising folklore of a small village community. The lyrical prose is unequivocally captivating

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  • Started reading
  • 17 May, 2020: Finished reading
  • 17 May, 2020: Reviewed