Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Chime by Franny Billingsley

by Franny Billingsley
Release Date: March 17, 2011
2011 Dial Books
Softcover Edition; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3552-1
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Penguin

4.5 / 5 Stars

Briony has a secret.  Her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her sister Rose's mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea. She yearns to be rid of her secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul; hanging's what they do to the Old Ones in the Swampsea - not the Boggy Mun or the Dead Hand, but Dark Muses, witches and the like.

When Eldric arrives - Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy - he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony.  But he wonders what's been buried beneath Briony's memory and guilt, hidden in Rose's mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones.  And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry, especially when everyone knows, witches can't cry.

My Thoughts
I was completely enthralled with Ms. Billingsley's wildly imaginative world and read about witches, and Boggy Mun, and the chime child, and Dark Muses with great interest and absorption.  I found the magic to be dark and twisted, reminding me so much of the Grimm fairy tales and the darker tales of my childhood that I enjoyed so much.  The magic was realistic and scary, and its use could and did seriously hurt those living in the area of the Swampsea who didn't respect it or made fun of it.  But the dark, twisted sense of things is something I really enjoy.

Briony is at the center of all of this twisted magic, and believes herself to be a witch, a dangerous one who can hurt people out of jealousy and rage.  She is full of woe and anger and guilt, and takes a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, such as looking after her twin sister Rose.  She is tormented by memories and visions she is not sure are hers, and make her doubt her beloved Stepmother, and this causes her endless torment and grief.  Briony is a person who has many walls around her and it was difficult to really get to know her well.  Her sarcastic wit and humour is a device to keep others at bay and to close off her heart to others, as her guilt makes her believe she is unloveable. 

Briony's twin sister Rose was an absolute delight.  She was like a breath of fresh air in every scene, and her confused sayings and speeches were a way of trying to tell Briony a truth and a secret that she knew but wasn't supposed to tell.  I have to admit it took my quite a while to pick up on this technique, although looking back it was right there and I don't know how I missed the obvious.  The author was quite brilliant in using this technique. I grew very fond of Eldric as well, and loved his toughness and his vulnerability.  He had his own brand of sarcastic wit that slowly drew Briony out of her shell, and as the two of them grew closer together, he began to see that maybe Briony was not exactly who she thought she was.  His slow probing of her actions with her Stepmother was another technique the author used to draw out the plot, and I really enjoyed how this was done. 

The language was probably one of the best things about this novel.   The tone of voice just jumps off the page and you feel like you are right there, with Briony, picturing how she felt and the setting around you.  I loved the sarcastic humour and the flow of the language and just savoured each word.  The plot can be somewhat confusing, but it does sort itself out, and there are some twists and surprises that caught me off guard.  I love how the love affairs were genuine, and took months and months before they became full-blown love affairs.  I'm not a big fan of stories where girl meets guy and they are immediately in love, but I did like how this was done.  The people involved became friends first, then good friends, then realized their love for each other.  Great sacrifice was involved, as well as great faith.

Chime was one of those books that haunted me from the first page and captivated my interest throughout.  I enjoyed the characters tremendously and really wanted the best for everyone involved.   While for the most part things ended satisfactorily, there were some things that were left at loose ends, and I would have like to have known more about certain situations.  I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.


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