Saturday, November 08, 2014

What We're Reading: Ghost Stories

Lexi Harris has grown up in the small village of Near believing certain things to be unfailingly true: 

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.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

But last night, Lexi saw a strange young man outside her bedroom window in the dark of the night. His face was one she had never seen before, and while she looked at him, he seemed to fade away like smoke. It has been a very long time since a stranger has been seen anywhere near the village, and the citizens are all wondering about him and pestering anyone who claims to have seen him for details. Of course, as the commotion grows, so do the number of people who claim to have seen the stranger!

The following morning, Lexi awakens to discover that Edgar Drake, one of the children in the village, is missing. No one knows where he’s gone--he seems simply to have vanished in the middle of the night. The morning after that, another child is missing. And the next morning another. While the townspeople, specifically Lexi’s uncle Otto, are convinced the children have been taken by the stranger, Lexi is not so sure. She means to find out, if she can, where the children have gone and, if they were taken, by whom. As Lexi explores the village and the moors that surround it, she will be led not only to the stranger but also to examine more closely the story of the "Near Witch," which is told to all the children of the village of Near. Lexi is about to discover that children’s stories and folktales often have their basis in truth. And in attempting to locate the missing children, Lexi is about to find out just how real the Near Witch is. . .

In The Near Witch, Victoria Schwab (Vicious, The Archived, The Unbound) weaves a beautifully told old-fashioned ghost story. It has everything a reader searching for a spooky or scary story could ask for. There are fog-covered moors, winds that seem to speak or sing, dark, stormy nights, and witches! The fact that small children have gone missing gives the story an edge, but the narrative never gets gratuitously gory or violent. In fact, quite possibly the scariest thing in the story is the villagers’ xenophobia, which causes them to immediately blame someone unfamiliar for the missing children, blinding them to the other possible causes.

As the season turns and the time changes, with shorter days and longer, cooler nights, The Near Witch is the perfect book to curl up with and enjoy!

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