Published by Speak on March 17th, 2011
Genres: fantasy, magical realism, young adult
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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 picked up this novel after Christina over at Christina Reads YA mentioned it as a good book for a readalong on a TTT topic. I had the book on my TBR shelf for a while. I tried to read this one in 2012, but I ended up giving up on it (my taste wasn’t fine-tuned at this time).
I am highly thankful that this book was a second chance novel. The story was wonderful and enchanting, and discussing the book with Christina as we both read it was a delightful experience.
I am using lines and quotes from the e-mail exchange between the two of us. We had some wonderful discussions regarding the novel and our reactions to the story!
At first, it was a bit difficult to get into the book:
” I love the book and the story arc, but there is something that is keeping me from just falling into the story. I think it has a lot to do with the main character and how she distances herself from her feelings. We never know what is on her mind, unless it is slipped into her inner dialog. Given her personality, it really works well. She loathes herself, so why go through the effort, even with the audience, when they’re just going to dislike you, too? You might as well build a wall and insert just enough to come across as interesting.”
I was trying to overcome the difficulties I was facing with the main character. Briony was fascinating, and the book opened with a wonderful, instant attention grabber, but it was a bit of a struggle to care for anyone at first. However, I was able to connect to her detached personality:
“I kinda like how [un]likeable she is. I like to dislike her. Above all, I feel a kinship for her. I really feel for her situation. I do the same thing she does – I don’t even try with new people because I automatically assume I am [un]likable, so I might as well be comfortable.”
I wasn’t a huge fan of Briony’s sister, at the start, either:
“I also hope to see the ever-loving daylight slapped out of Rose.”
But I slowly started to shed the negativity towards the girl:
“Rose is really becoming a force herself. Her small moments of clarity (such as the witch trial) reveals so much more depth. I am starting to lean more towards autism than traumatic brain injury. I suppose if it was the fall, then it would have been a bigger deal, such as staying in bed longer. I have really warmed up to Rose. She is getting the short end of the stick.”
Despite the poor first impression of the characters, it was hard to put it down due to the richness of the prose.
“The writing really keeps me going. I usually frown upon purple prose and metaphor-heavy speech, but she really captures the environment with her writing devices. I don’t feel that it is stuck in to make the story more “intellectual”, it has a place and it is so well crafted! I have to also have to voice my appreciate for the humor in this novel. It helps take some of the chill and gloom off of the story.”
The novel, while emotionally avoidant, was rich and vibrant in the storytelling department. I loved the author’s style.
“Author in control – that is a PERFECT way to describe the story.
[The author] is using a highly recycled storyline, but I just love how she handles it like a pro. I am shocked that she hasn’t written more past this novel.”
The romance is a large element of the novel, which left me somewhat irritated at the start…
“The biggest issue I am facing right now is the Cecil/Leanne love square thing happening. I hate how Leanne is shamed. I understand that the author wants us to feel remorseful for Eldric’s attention towards her, but I am really over shaming another female. It is a trope I want to see writers stop using. It might be just an age thing or a person view, but it is just distasteful.”
….okay, ONE particular romance had my favor instantly…
“[C]an I say that I am secretly squealing over her and Robert?”
…but Billingsley has made some very favorable sacrifices to the writing gods.
“I ended up falling hard for the characters. I actually pitied Cecil and Leanne”
“I just kept denying [that the romance storyline was good] because I thought it was too convenient, but she did such a great job with Leanne, and I understand why she was there, and it wasn’t to try to get the reader to feel sorry for Briony.”
In the end, everything came together. It is hard to judge this book right in the middle, because the bigger picture has not yet come into full view. The author had me fooled. I jumped to conclusions, since I thought that the cliques were deployed.With Chime, things are not always what they seem. My feelings for Briony (and even Rose) had morphed and completely did a 180.
“Agreed agreed agreed. I think a lot of the guilt I’ve seen comes off as being kind of melodramatic or emo as you said, but somehow Briony didn’t come off as either to me. I think in the hands of a less talented writer, she would have DEFINITELY been melodramatic.”
One of my favorite part of the book had to be the big reveal. I never saw the twist coming, and it was pleasant to be shocked and amazed by a book, something I rarely currently encounter.
“WOW! Just WOW!”
The only issue I faced was the sudden change of the attitudes of one of the main male characters. Basically, a traumatic event happens to him, and in return, he forces himself (a kiss and some groping) on a female because he feels like less of a man.
The ending was a bit too rapey for my taste, and it did leave a bitter aftertaste on an otherwise brilliant conclusion.
My final thoughts?
“ I can say that I did not simply like the book, I loved it.”
Go read this novel. Now.