Chime by Franny Billingsley is one of those books I discovered on Goodreads and immediately knew I’d love based on the synopsis (and the gorgeous cover). Briony has a guilty secret – she is a witch. A witch who has destroyed her family: she blames herself for her sister’s mental disability, her home being victim to both fire and flood and the death of her stepmother. She only feels at home in the swamp, but before her stepmother died she warned Briony that the swamp only made her powers worse. Then handsome Eldric moves into town and makes Briony question everything.
Well, I was so right: I did love this book! I fell in love with it from the first sentence and remained enchanted through the whole story. Briony is one of a kind – her narration was at times angry, sad, eerie, hopeful, scary…but always bewitching. Always interesting. There is no way to see the world through her eyes and not feel drawn to her and wonder about the things she believed she has done. I knew early on that things were not as they seemed – certainly not exactly how Briony saw them – but I definitely did not expect things to unfold the way they did.
Eldric is a great character too – I absolutely adored the different ways Briony described him. The descriptive language she uses is very original…but very Briony. I don’t remember the last time an author was able to so successfully create someone so complex and layered (not to mention quirky and oddball) and keep the characterization so consistent. Her voice is very distinctive – the blend of wit and irony kept me constantly entertained:
In a proper story, antagonistic sparks would fly between Eldric and me, sparks that would sweeten the inevitable kiss on page 324. But life doesn’t work that way. I didn’t hate Eldric, which, for me, is about as good as things get.
I also loved her descriptions of the other characters:
Father’s silence is not merely the absence of sound. It’s a creature with a life of its own. It chokes you. It pinches you small as a grain of rice. It twists your gut like a worm.
Silence clawed at my throat. It left a taste of burnt matches.
No, our family doesn’t talk much.
She spoke in a dark-river sort of voice, as though her throat were filled with dusk. She was staying in a village not twenty miles off, but her dusky voice made it sound like an island of spicy winds and bursting pineapples. Just the place to be marooned.
I really cannot recommend reading this book enough – a constantly compelling fantasy plot, an intriguing and malevolent swamp setting and a set of the most quirky and captivating characters you’ll ever come across.
Also…just in case I haven’t convinced you yet, here I am reading the first chapter: