Chime by Franny Billingsley, published by Bloomsbury on 4th April 2011
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.
I had really high hopes for this book. The synopsis sounded enchanting and the cover art is so striking that I fully expected to end up loving this. However, I have to say that I had quite mixed feelings about it and actually really struggled to finish reading it. I'm still not sure quite why I didn't connect to the story but I'm going to try and sum up my thoughts on the book.
The story centres on Briony and her twin sister Rose. Briony believes that she is a witch who's responsible for her stepmother's death and is convinced that she's intrinsically evil and good for nothing. She fails to see any good in herself at all and is always punishing herself inside for the despair that she feels she has caused to those around her. She's full of self-hatred and believes that she should be made to pay for what she's done. When the mysterious Eldric enters her life she has to consider the question of whether or not she should let him share the secret of who she really is.
When I first read the blurb of this book I thought it sounded amazing. I was excited to pick it up and start reading. The main problem I had was that I just felt disconnected from the story and from the characters. I struggled to actually understand what was happening a lot of the time and I had to go back and read chapters again when I realised I'd finished one but still didn't know what was going on. This may have partly been to the original and unusual style of writing which I found very difficult to read. It was extremely lyrical and just didn't enthrall me at all. Although it picked up a bit in the second-half, I never fully engaged with the characters and what was happening to them.
Saying that, I did like the magical and fantastical elements of the book and I enjoyed the burgeoning romance between Briony and Eldric, although it took quite a long time for this aspect to take off. I would have liked more attention to have been paid to this in the first part of the book.
I am truly disappointed that I didn't connect with 'Chime'. I wanted so much to be able to give it a five star review. However, although this book wasn't for me, I know that a lot of people have enjoyed it immensely so if I've got you suitably intrigued then pick up a copy and make up your own mind!