Thursday, 14 July 2011

review: The Near Witch

by Victoria Schwab
Hyperion, August 2011
young adult paranormal
e-galley received via NetGalley

Lexi has grown up with the legend of the Near Witch of the moors. But she doesn't believe that witches are evil, unlike many people in her village. So when a stranger appears one night, then children start disappearing the next, she's the only one who doesn't immediately point fingers at the boy. Instead, Lexi helps him on a hunt to solve the mystery... a mystery whose roots lead them back to the very beginning of the moor.
The cover:

I guess it's pretty, but why is there a curtain? Why is she leaning against the window with a curtain in the way? This cover looks like it should be called "Stepping Free of the Bonds of Marriage" or something. Also, most of this novel occurs at night, so this blinding daylight confuses me.

The book:

Opening with Lexi's little sister Wren is a smooth move; it establishes her importance and also allows Schwab to unobtrusively sneak in the bedtime story upon which this novel's foundations rest upon. However, the world built on the story is shaky. The village has guns, but no other technology, while the fear of witches suggests a medieval time. The prescence of actual witchcraft suggests a whole other world from today's, but further world-building is neatly side-stepped by making the town isolated.

It was a little difficult to get behind Lexi, mainly because the chain of events always seemed to occur around her. She always had the right intentions, but she never exactly seemed to make a difference. This didn't make her intolerable, merely forgettable. As for the love interest -- it was so, so obvious how it'd play out. Stranger sweeps in, no one understands him but protag, villagers catch protag and stranger making out passionately. Yes, it all happens, especially the last one. I can't say I clicked with any of the supporting characters, either.

The climax takes a stretch of the imagination, but the whole circle feel satisfies while remaining firmly grounded in witchlore. It's a little hard not to come off preachy since the whole village is tainted in hate, but the ending preaching may be forgiven by readers who are already satisfied with this perfunctory paranormal.

Rating: 2.4 out of 5