I’ve never read a book by Franny Billingsley before and I’ve been hearing good things about Chime so when I saw a copy available at a local bookstore, I decided to grab it. I just wanted to say that I don’t think the cover goes with the story – the girl doesn’t look like the Briony in my mind even though she does have blonde hair and dark eyes. For some reason, the cover suggests a paranormal YA book to me rather than historical fantasy. Just wanted to bring that up in case some of you are hesitant to pick up the book because of the cover.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
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.
The writing in this one takes some getting used to and I’m not sure how to describe it exactly but let me just say that Briony’s voice is unique. It took me a couple of chapters before I was fully immersed in the story and I didn’t have a hard time finishing the book when I got to that point. Briony is such an interesting character! She hates herself because she believes she’s done wicked things. She’s very matter of fact about not liking herself and even people around her like her twin sister Rose and her father. Briony also knows that she’s smarter than a lot of people and that a wicked girl like her can get away with sarcastic remarks all the time. Along comes Eldric, a young man from the city, and everything changes when he fits into their lives so effortlessly. I really liked this novel because of the characters, I thought that Briony hating herself would get on my nerves eventually but that never happened. I still liked her. I also found Rose charming and some of her comments and actions even made me smile. While I didn’t develop a fictional crush on Eldric, I did like how his friendship with Briony developed through secret bad boy meetings and wanderings in the swamp.
The swamp setting is also refreshingly different. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where a swamp plays a major role in the story. And swamps are generally described as disgusting, not beautiful like it was in this book. All sorts of interesting creatures called the Old Ones live in the swamp. It’s a dangerous place and people need to carry Bible Balls for protection when they venture to this place. Briony loves it though because she’s friends with the Old Ones and she becomes wolfgirl when she’s in the swamp, exploring everything in a stealthy way. I was expecting to fall in love with Chime and even though that didn’t happen, I still enjoyed reading it and it has made me curious about Franny Billingsley’s other novels. I feel like Chime would grow on me and I’d like it a lot better as a reread because I wouldn’t have to adjust to the writing when I pick it up again. Although with a mountain of a TBR pile, I have no idea when I’ll get around to rereading this. Recommended for fans of YA fantasy, especially those who prefer a historical setting.
Because I can’t adequately describe the writing style, here’s a non-spoilery sample from the prologue:
I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.
I don’t mean to be difficult, but I can’t bear to tell my story. I can’t relive those memories — the touch of the Dead Hand, the smell of eel, the gulp and swallow of the swamp. How can you possibly think me innocent? Don’t let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.
I know you believe you’re giving me a chance — or, rather, it’s the Chime Child giving me the chance. She’s desperate, of course, not to hang an innocent girl again, but please believe me: Nothing in my story will absolve me of guilt. It will only prove what I’ve already told you, which is that I’m wicked. Can’t the Chime Child take my word for it?
In any event, where does she expect me to begin? The story of a wicked girl has no true beginning. I’d have to begin with the day I was born.
This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.