Monday, August 1, 2011
Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
In The Near Witch, debut author Victoria Schwab creates an original, haunting fairy tale that will capture readers imaginations -- and hearts. Her lyrical prose reads like a lullaby, with a rhythm and cadence bewitching to the senses, and sets the scene for a tale of children lured from their beds to vanish across the moonlit moor. The world Schwab constructs is richly atmospheric, with its own history and customs and bedtime stories, blending a coming-of-age story with the myth and magic of folklore. The town of Near will feel as familiar as the reader's own neighborhood, its inhabitants as endearing and frustrating as family.
Lexi is everything a heroine should be, unhindered by the archaic constraints of custom or the close-minded disapproval of society. Her father raised her to be independent and maybe a little bit wild, part of the natural world around her. She is brave and compassionate, defiant and intelligent -- unwilling to sit idly by and let mistrust and panic take its course. She won me over from the start.
One of my favorite aspects of the story is Lexi's family. The love between Lexi and her family is unconditional, their faith in her unwavering. Though her mother is broken in the wake of her father's death, echoes of the strong, commanding woman she once was peek through and give readers hope that the sun will shine on them again one day. Wren is Lexi's bubbly and birdlike little sister, and Lexi's adoration of the spirited sparrow is palpable on the page. Wren is a bright spot amid the eerie, misty moor, and gives passion to Lexi's drive to save the children of Near.
Then there's Cole -- enigmatic, elusive Cole. He is the stormy center of the story, alluring Lexi (and readers) with his mystery, and winning their sympathy with his tempestuous past. Though this sounds like the same old story, it's not. There's an ethereal, untamed quality to Cole that likens him to the wind-tossed moor -- more than just a brooding, beautiful boy. He is bowed by secret trials beyond his years, an old soul to keep pace with Lexi's own spirit. Though the novel is more folklore than love story, the streak of romance gives an edge of softness to an otherwise ominous tale.
Magda and Dreska -- the gnarled, weathered witches that lurk on the outskirts of Near -- were two of the most fascinating characters in the novel, their commanding presence demanding attention even on the fringes of a scene. Their wisdom, hidden behind riddles and half-formed phrases, gave the novel its air of mystery and impugned the town's hate and fear. The rest of the village is infuriating. Their small-minded prejudice creates the drama and emotional tension that drives the plot, and will keep readers fuming with the injustice of it all. Yet, they are just one of the evils Lexi must face. Though the villain may be foreseeable, the outcome is not -- there is no promise of happily-ever-after in the town of Near, and readers will be up until the wee witching hours to discover whether justice prevails or beloved characters take the fall.
Disclosure: I received an advance galley from the publisher for an honest review.
This novel hits shelves tomorrow! Click here to purchase The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.
Part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.
Coming Soon: Author interview with Victoria Schwab.