The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

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Perhaps it’s appropriate that my first V.E. Schwab book is actually her debut novel. It went out of print a couple of years after it was first published but was reissued in 2018.

In her introduction, Schwab says that this “was a small book, quiet and strange at a time when everything that sold well was loud and vaguely familiar”. It was originally published in 2011. The year of Divergent, The Martian, Ready Player One, Fifty Shades of Grey. Those were definitely loud books. I can see how a quiet book like The Near Witch could get lost in such a world.

And maybe it’s just the time of year to be reading it, or the mood that I’m in. But The Near Witch was just the right read for me at this time. Quiet reading in a quieter house than usual (the kids are back in school after more than a year of distance learning). But it’s also a book about fear. Fear of those who don’t belong. Fear of a stranger who appears in a small town at a time when children begin disappearing.

And Lexi, a girl of the town of Near who is different from the others.

Not right. Not proper.

I enjoyed the fairytale-like feel to the story. A small town on the moor. An insulated, isolated place where everyone knows everyone else. But two sisters who live on the edge of town are thought to be witches.

Schwab is brilliant at creating atmosphere in her book. I felt like I was standing on the moor, the wind sighing. The moor itself is almost like a character in the book, rippling and swaying, keeping secrets, hiding mysteries.