Chime by Franny Billingsley
Publisher: Dial / Penguin
Genre: (recent) Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Cholla
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.
Words hold power. Power over both the speaker, and over the one hearing them spoken. And secrets... well, secrets are very special kinds of words. Brionly Larkin is keeping a secret. One that could see her hanged if she’s ever to let it out. However, if she keeps the secret to herself much longer, her sister, Rosy, will die of the swamp cough, along with many others in Swampsea. So, what’s a poor witch girl to do?
Briony is a study in contradictions. She constantly states emphatically how much she hates herself and just how jealous she is of her sister when, in reality, she takes good care of herself and literally dotes on Rosy. Her love for her sister, and respect for herself, shines brightly. I had a real love/hate relationship going with Briony throughout the novel for this reason – she’s so hard on herself for every small thing that happens – from the death of her stepmother to Rosy’s each and every upset. However, it’s only natural for her to fall into the role of caretaker for her innocent, child-like sister.
Eldric isn’t exactly your typical hero. While he supports and encourages Briony to do what needs to be done, he doesn’t always help her along, either. However, he is nothing less than her knight in shining armor. Giving her the confidence and courage to face not just the odds stacked against her, but the real threat – her own self.
Chime is a beautifully written story of love without bounds – love of family, love of self, and that first romantic love. A classic fantasy bordering on a fairy tale, any lover of a true happily ever after will find more than a little joy in the unexpected resolution of this book. Briony’s journey comes full circle in more ways than one, bringing her out the other side a new and better person. Chime is an adventure into the swamp, and into the self, that you won’t soon forget.