It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark.

The match hisses to life.

“Please,” comes the small voice behind me.

“It’s late, Wren,” I say. The fire chews on the wooden stem in my hand. I touch the match to each of the three candles gathered on the low chest by the window. “It’s time for bed.”

With the candles all lit, I shake the match and the flame dies, leaving a trail of smoke that curls up against the darkened glass.

Everything seems different at night. Defined. Beyond the window, the world is full of shadows, all pressed together in harsh relief, somehow sharper than they ever were in daylight. Sounds seem sharper, too, at night. A whistle. A crack. A child’s whisper.

“Just one more,” she pleads, hugging the covers close. I sigh, my back to my little sister, and run my fingers over the tops of the books stacked beside the candles. I feel myself bending.

“It can be a very short one,” she says.

My hand rests against an old green book as the wind hums against the house.

“All right.” I cannot deny my sister anything, it seems. “Just one,” I add, turning back to the bed. Wren sighs happily against her pillow, and I slip down beside her. The candles paint pictures of light on the walls of our room. I take a deep breath.

“The wind on the moors is a tricky thing.”

Excerpt © 2011 Victoria Schwab

About the book:

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. 

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

What people are saying:

“Romantic, haunting, and truly original—The Near Witch cast a spell on us from the very first page.”–Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, NYT bestselling authors of Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness

“Victoria Schwab has crafted a richly atmospheric and lyrical masterpiece. This novel mesmerized me from the first line to the last.”–Carrie Ryan, New York Times best-selling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Released: August 2, 2011

About the author:

Victoria is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. She also possesses a dangerous case of wanderlust, and a penchant for staring at clouds. You can visit her at