cover image The Near Witch

The Near Witch

Victoria Schwab. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4231-3787-0

Schwab's first book is more poetry than prose, concerned above all with the moor, the night, and the wind. Lexi Harris wants to be "of" the moor, but she's not sure how. Her father, who she thought held the secret, is dead, her mother is withdrawn, and her brutish uncle Otto is unsympathetic to Lexi's aspirations. He'd like to see her dressed like a "proper" girl, responsive to the advances of Tyler Ward; Lexi would rather buckle on her father's hunting knife and visit the witch sisters, Magda and Dreska Thorne. When a stranger comes to the village of Near, and children begin vanishing from their beds, Lexi is determined to solve the mystery%E2%80%94the more so because she's certain that the stranger is not to blame. Schwab puts more emphasis on mood than on plot; her characters are types, intriguingly sketched but underdeveloped. The details of the world of Near are likewise hints and tropes, and Schwab's use of present-tense, first-person narration heightens the sense of unreality, as though Lexi is less a fully realized person than a character the reader inhabits in a dream. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Aug.)