The Near Witch is a deliciously eerie and captivating book that drew me in with the first pages. The book reads like a fairy tale with lush, vivid descriptions. I could visualize the curling wind and tall grasses depicted in the story. The story has a timeless and mysterious quality that is in turn dark, chilling, and romantic. This is the perfect book to curl up and read on a cold winter night.The protagonist, Lexi, lives with her mother and younger sister in the town of Near. After her father's death, she has stepped up to care for her family. She is comfortable with her father's hunting knife and chopping firewood. She is a feminist and a free thinker. She does not see why she should not be able to do these chores or why she would not be included in the search for the missing children. Lexi is a strong heroine that is inquisitive and determined. She remains true to herself even when she becomes romantically involved.The town of Near is a character itself, with the forest and the moors, the gardens and the wind. It is a quiet small town that is shaken by the stranger's arrival and the missing children. The townspeople include the council members who are searching for the stranger, and the families grieving their missing children. The two witches in the town are fascinating with their gardens, charms, tea, and historic knowledge of the town.The action ramps up throughout the novel to the final tension filled chapters. It is impossible to put this book down until you reach the riveting conclusion. The ending was exciting, satisfying, and complete. I don't know if there are plans for a sequel, but I would love to read more.I recommend The Near Witch for the gorgeous writing, vivid descriptions, and the suspenseful fairytale story. This is Victoria Schwab's debut novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work. The Near Witch is due to be published August 2, 2011.