Thursday, January 19, 2012
Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
Chime is gorgeous and haunting. It is very dark. Much more of a Grimm fairy tale than a Disney fairy tale. But I've always loved witch stories. This one has some serious depth to it and is extremely engrossing. Everything is very vividly and realistically described. I didn't have any trouble suspending disbelief, even for the magic.
I had a little trouble at first with the writing voice. It is very first-person, stream-of-consciousness. We read what Briony is thinking as she's thinking it, and, like any real person, her thoughts are often disjointed. She jumps around, she has random memories, she thinks completely unrelated things. Also, the language in this book is very artsy. Franny Billingsley uses some very bizarre metaphors and her descriptions are a little wacky. But, once I got used to it and dove in a bit more, it sucked me in. I loved the weirdness and the little bit of creepiness.
One of the reasons this book is so dark is that Briony suffers from a lot of guilt and depression. But it's not that she's feeling sorry for herself. There are some very real things that she has done wrong. Or so she thinks. Also, Briony has suffered from some heavy emotional and verbal abuse, and once a message has been ingrained in a person's brain like that, it can be very hard to silence those inner voice. Oooh, this book is so psychological. Since we get the story through the filter of her brain, the answers and the whole picture aren't immediately noticeable. There are some surprises and I loved the journey we go through with her to unravel the tangled mess in her soul.
And speaking of journey, my favorite part of this book is the absolutely beautiful love story. I'm talking real love, based on months of friendship, laughter, and mutual support. I get so sick of the insta-lust in so many YA books these days.
Anyway, I don't think this is a book I can recommend without reservation, because it is very dark and Briony's brain is a bit of a depressing place to live in, but I just know that I loved this. Kudos to Franny Billingsley and I'll be looking for more from her.