Monday, June 18, 2012

How Near are Your Fears?

The Near Witch
You read all these modern witch stories and it makes you miss the old-fashioned, witch hiding in plain sight from the superstitious villagers, type of witch story. There was something magical (pun intended) about those stories and that time that is pure fiction to us just because it is so far away from our current world. But Victoria Schwab brings us back there in The Near Witch, to a place with villagers with pitchforks and witches who can control the elements.

Lexi lives in the town of Near where the stories of the Near Witch, driven from town hundreds of years ago, are enough to give the town kids nightmares and make a good threat for their parents when kids get out of line. But Near is an isolated and superstitious town where strangers are neither frequent nor welcomed. When a strange young man appears in Near, his appearance coincides with the disappearance of a young kid each night from a closed up house with no evidence or signs of where they went.

Lexi finds the stranger, Cole (or at least that's what she names him), and can tell instantly that while there is something clearly mysterious about him, he is not the one who took the children. Unfortunately, the townsfolk don't agree and want to run him out of town. But Cole is the only one who has helped Lexi hunt for the culprit in the dead of night, and she is afraid that without him, she may not find the kidnapper. When the trail towards the kids gets more and more supernatural, Lexi knows she and Cole are the only ones open-minded enough to search for the truth... the real truth.

I really enjoyed the old-fashioned, on-the-moor feel to this book, but sometimes it seemed like the plot was a smidge too thin for my reading tastes. It was a relatively short book, so there needed to be a quick call to action, but things tarried a bit in the middle. The presence of Cole and the "sisters" in the town (basically witches) were a cool addition to the story and I enjoyed their characters. I also liked how Lexi was relentless in her pursuit of the culprit. She wasn't going to stay inside just because the men in town told her to do so, she was going to solve the mystery herself. She was plucky and I enjoyed that!

This is a good book for a middle school through high school student. The writing is quite lyrical, so it might be a little too sophisticated for a younger or weaker reader. Also, the lag time you occasionally encounter in the story might distract or cause them to lose interest. Still, I found it to be a lovely story and the writing felt magical... almost like a song across the moor grass.

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