Saturday, November 19, 2011


Title: Chime
Category: Fantasy
Grades: 9-12
Author: Franny Billingsley
Publisher: Dial Books
Date: 2011
Pages: 361

Briony is a witch.  By the age of seventeen, she has injured and killed her stepmother and caused the accident that damaged her twin sister’s mind. Ensnared in self-loathing and the terrible secrets that will surely see her hanged if they are known, Briony lives to care for her sister and try to redeem herself.  Eldric, with his gorgeous clothes, city ways, and golden lion’s mane, confuses her.  He makes her want to cry, but witches don’t cry.  He makes her feel odd inside, but of course witches can’t fall in love.  When the Old Ones reveal to Briony that the draining of the swamp will curse the townspeople, including Rose, to die of the Swamp Cough, Briony makes a terrible bargain and summons the ghosts of the town’s dead children to try to stop the town.  When her secret is revealed, along with another deadly declaration from the grave, even Eldric’s love for her may not be enough to save her from the people’s fear and from the law.

Chime is a difficult read; there’s really no way around that.  Younger readers will not understand it, and even older teens will probably need to be strong readers in order to tackle it.  The language is dense, and the main character often buried in the morass of her own confused self-loathing, making the story slow down in places and occasionally difficult to understand.  Through the opening sequences, the author creates a character in a situation so distasteful that putting the book down was very tempting.  However, once the reader adapts to the writing style and emerges from the early scenes, it becomes easier to recognize Chime for the masterpiece it truly is. Beautifully wordsmithed, well-researched, with complex and authentic character development, Chime is a powerful, compelling story in which nothing is as it appears.  Billingsley captures the powerful ability of an abused mind to protect itself and survive with amazing authenticity, the depth and slow bloom of the young lovers’ relationship is breathtaking, and the slow reveal of both Rose’s character and the mystery surrounding Briony, if not always a complete surprise, are extremely well played. 


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