I enjoyed this one. This story goes fairly quickly and the characters are interesting. The children of Near have grown up hearing tales about the Near witch and when a stranger comes to Near (which never happens), children begin disappearing. Lexi is 16 and seems to be the only person willing to find out more about the stranger before assuming he is responsible for the disappearances. Lexi is pretty independent and was raised by her father to do things a "normal" girl her age wouldn't do. She can track, chop wood and defend herself. Cole is somewhat defeated when he gets to Near and he seems so tentative when he first interacts with Lexi. It was curious (along with the way he "disappears") so I actually jumped over to read The Ash-Born Boy to get his back story. I was glad to see how much he changed over the course of the story (really only 7 days) because he realized he wanted to fight for himself and stay in Near with Lexi.Overall it was a good story. Obviously the Near Witch plays a role...it is well paced and kept me engaged.