Summary (From Goodreads): 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.
Review: The Near Witch is a wonderful novel for many reasons, the most important (for me at least) being originality. I'm always excited to see originality in YA novels. Often, the same ideas or themes are used over and over again. Victoria Schwab not only introduces us to a new idea and theme, but she creates an entirely original world for readers to explore in The Near Witch.
The novel is set in the village of Near and the surrounding Moor. Not much more about the setting is explained. We don't know the location of Near (although I pictured England because of the moor) or the time period the novel is set in. As someone who likes to have a clear picture in my head of the setting of a novel, this was frustrating for me at first. However, as I continued reading I realized that the vague setting added to the novel's atmosphere. It made everything a little more mysterious and tense as our protagonist explored the moor.
And while we're on the subject of the protagonist, let me just say that Lexi is a wonderful one. She's very much like Katniss Everdeen, in terms of her resilience and courage. It was a joy to read the book through her eyes. Schwab has a great handle on all of her characters, from the paranoid villagers to the eccentric witches that live on the outskirts of Near.
The lore of The Near Witch was well crafted; at times it felt like reading a Brothers Grimm tale. Schwab did a good job of incorporating The Near Witch into the plot. We learn more about her little by little. It was almost like a dual narrative: The Near Witch's story and Lexi's story. This added a nice layer to the novel.
Bottom Line: The Near Witch was a wonderful read. Perfect for fans of fairy tales/fairy tale retellings!