Chime by Franny Billingsley
Released on March 17, 2011.
Briony believes that she is the source of her family’s troubles. She blames herself for her stepmother’s death and for her twin sister’s brain damage. Her only solace is the swamp, where she can see and speak with the Old Ones. But she can tell no one about her gift because it means that she is a witch, and witches in her village are hanged. Everything changes when funny, gallant Eldric comes to live with them. He is golden, lion-like and best of all, he appreciates Briony for just being herself. However, Briony is filled with guilt and secrets that may be the death of her. Unknown to her though, there are further secrets that need to be revealed, to everyone.
The writing here is so lush, so inventive, so layered that its language creates a unique world all on its own. Billingsley uses unique metaphors that are arrestingly descriptive. In fact, the writing is so lovely that my book is marked with many small bookmarks for amazing passages. Wonderfully, the character of Briony also plays with language and words, using them as a game, a tool and a weapon. It is this layering of imagery and wordplay that makes the reading of the book such a special one.
Right from the beginning, readers will know that something is amiss with Briony’s version of the events. One wonders if the Old Ones are actually real, emerges confused by the relationship of the stepmother with her stepdaughters, examines the events of the library fire, and tries to follow the breadcrumb trail of details to figure out this puzzle of a book. Briony is a great example of an unreliable narrator, leading readers through past events and present events with her own personal lens. Delightfully, readers will struggle to remove the vividness of Briony’s perspective and view the world without it.
Highly recommended, this is a book that mature teen readers will enjoy thanks to its blend of fantasy, romance and mystery. My hope is that we see it winning some awards when award season rolls around. It is definitely a winner of a read for me. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.