Franny Billingsley – Chime
Read By: Susan Duerden
Length: 10h 11m (368 pages)
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Started: 12 March 2012
Finished: 23 March 2012
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Twitter buzz, I think?
Briony’s a witch,
but that doesn’t mean she’s all
evil… or does it?
Summary: Briony Larkin has not had a particularly easy life, but the thing is, most of the terrible things that happen around her – Stepmother’s illness, the burning of the parsonage library, the fact that her twin sister Rose is not quite right – they’re all her fault. Because, you see, Briony is a witch, able to see the various types of fairy folk that live around her small village of Swampsea, and able to bid them to do terrible things on her behalf. Ever since Stepmother’s death, Briony’s sworn to herself that she will be good: no more going into the swamp, only staying and taking care of Rose. But what if Briony can’t force herself to be entirely good… and what if the witch-hating townspeople – or worse, the handsome and clever Eldrick – find out all of Briony’s secrets?
Review: This was a lovely and unique book, one reminiscent of other various fantasy novels but having a voice all its own. The prose takes some getting used to – it’s poetic and lyrical in places, oddly fragmented in others, but rarely straightforward – but then again, we’re spending the entire time inside Briony’s head, and the inside of Briony’s head is not the most comfortable and straightforward of places. The story likewise jumps around a bit, flashing back in time or skipping days in time with Briony’s thoughts. I eventually got into the rhythm of things, but I did spend the early parts of the book a little bit wrong-footed, wondering when things were going to settle down and get to a plot. When I did manage to piece things together, I saw most of the plot twists coming from miles away (in general form if not always in specific details), but I was enjoying the other elements of the book enough that I didn’t mind that the parts of the book that I think were supposed to be surprising weren’t always.
The best part of the book, for me, was the characters and their relationships. Briony was fascinating, and sympathetic even if not always entirely likable – but then, part of the point was that she didn’t find herself particularly likable, either. I also loved Eldric, both for who he was on his own (and who he wasn’t), and also for his interactions with Briony. It was so refreshing to read a romance in a YA fantasy novel in which being in each other’s company makes each participant better, easier, happier, and in which both parties are equally invested. Rose was also wonderful, enigmatic and a little off-putting and yet still speaking the truth, whether or not Briony could hear it. Susan Duerden did a lovely job with the narration, but I was particular struck with her voice for Rose – strident and almost obnoxious, but with a clear sense that there was something else going on underneath. It added a nice touch to an already highly enjoyable novel. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Chime is a very unique book, so it’s hard to pick exact read-alikes. Fans of books about witch trials, fairy folk, or with unreliable narrators should definitely enjoy it, but it’s good enough that I think that any fan of YA fantasy should give it a try.
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First Line: I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.
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