16 June 2011


I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please.

I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story. I can't relive those memories... How can you possibly think me innocent? Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.

With that haunting opening, Franny Billingsley introduces us to Briony in a beautifully lyrical new novel, Chime.

Since her stepmother's death, 17-year-old Briony, the preacher's daughter, has known that there are two secrets it is crucial she keep - that she is a witch and that she is responsible for both the death of her stepmother and the accident that caused her twin sister Rose's mental illness. Briony is careful to always hate herself so that she never forgets either of these things; to forget would be to possibly endanger those around her even further.

Then Eldrich comes to town and treats Briony as if she is extraordinary. He plays lion-boy to her wolf-girl and makes it more difficult than ever to keep her secrets. But keep them she must, else her sister will die of the Swamp Cough and others will suffer terribly...

Chime was a magical book. It isn't a quick read - the richness of the language Billingsley uses deserves (and demands) a slower pace - but it is a worthwhile one. The world of the Swampsea is painted with beautiful clarity as Billingsley introduces us to the Old Ones, the Chime Child and other inhabitants of Briony's sphere. Main characters - particularly Briony, Eldrich and Rose - are drawn with such depth as to move the reader. Indeed, before I was too deep into the book I was already wishing that it would prove untrue that Briony had committed the crimes to which she was confessing and yearning to know if there was more to Rose hidden beneath her childlike demeanor.

While this book will have definite appeal to fans of fantasy and folklore, it is not a niche read. Readers who stick with it will be rewarded with a tale that will remain with them long after the book is closed.

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