The Near Witch, by V. E. Schwab, 2019

Title: The Near Witch

Author: V. E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 355

Recommended for: Fans of both adult and young-adult fantasy and of Neil Gaiman.  

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. 
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.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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. 

I cannot assert how much I loved the narrative structure, enough. Schwab weaves a magical net of prose and fantasy that engulfs the reader into the story and makes it almost touchingly real. The imagery of the windy moors – the wind has been personified and it is an entity of its own and grips the reader’s attention. Environment, or nature, in itself is given great stature in the book, the wind especially, and this added element provides greater temporal and spatial depths of an already intriguing story. There is adventure, there is mystery and there is romance; although I love how the romance has not been given center stage. There is love yes, but the love Lexi shares with her sister is far greater and warming to read about. Lexi is brave, and like every other teenager, she too struggles at times and is made all the more humane, by it. I love how the female representation is done in today’s fantasy. This genre continues to give us strong heroines, who are not perfect, but they are brave (like Reshma Saujani says in her book – be Brave, Not Perfect). These heroines can do wrong yes, make mistakes, but they are never afraid to own up to them and thus, have the potentials to be such great idols for the young impressionable minds. The fight against stereotypical gender roles in this book is shown through Lexi and I enjoyed seeing her defy the expectations, time and time again! Trauma and its effects on people, dealing with it etc. is too portrayed in the book. Then ending however, was a bit rushed but then again considering it is a debut novel, I am not surprised. I am wondering of what differences I will find in her latest ADSOM trilogy…

This new edition by Titan books also has the short story The Ash-Born Boy which is basically the back-story of Cole. I think this is a magical short-story in itself too! I cannot again, stress enough on how much I love the prose writing of the author – this writing in itself is such wave-like, so fluidic that you just flow towards the story and become one with it. It is a powerhouse on its own.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved the story and fell in love with Schwab’s writing style (so much so that I will be picking up the ADSOM trilogy this upcoming weekend!). I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

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