Thursday, 7 April 2011

Book Review: Chime by Franny Billingsley

ChimeGoodreads description

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.

My thoughts and review

The story focuses on Briony (the narrator) and her twin sister Rose and is loosely set in early 19th century England. Briony is plagued by the fact that she is a witch and she believes herself responsible for her sister's terrible accident and her stepmother's death. She is a character that deeply despises herself for what she believes she has inflicted on other people and believes she deserves to be punished severely for what she has done.

Chime is a book that I have very mixed feelings about and I had to work hard to finish it. The premise sounded unusual and something different from what I would usually pick so I was really hoping that I would love it. For the beginning part of the book, I found it  hard to understand what was going on because of the writing style, which I found quite confusing. It took me a long while before I completely understood where the story was heading and the relationships between the characters.
On the other hand, I have to say that the writing style was very original and different at times but I found it was more cumbersome than entertaining. For example, the narrator and main character Briony would suddenly break into verse with no relation to the sentence before and whilst I can see the effect that the author was trying to achieve by some of the techniques used, they unfortunately didn't work for me because it spoiled the natural flow of the story and made it too disjointed. Also, I found it distanced me from the characters too much so I felt disconnected from them. Having said that, some of the descriptions and imagery used was beautiful and made me pause to appreciate it.

Briony is an interesting narrator because we only get to know what she thinks is happening or is true and in that sense she is an unreliable narrator. This also means secrets are slowly revealed throughout the book and there's a mystery which the reader is left to solve from clues that are dropped into the text. She is a very odd character who is complicated and flawed with a very negative image of herself but I loved how protective she was of Rose even though she thinks it's impossible for witches to 'love'. Her relationship with Eldric was one of my favourite parts of the book and it was one of the things that kept me reading the book. I thought some of their interactions were amusing such as their made up language Real Latin with words such as 'stupidibus.' I also liked the way that their romance sprung from friendship and their relationship developed slowly because istant love is particularly common in YA paranormal romance and fantasy. However, I would have liked to have seen more romance and for it to have picked up slightly earlier without being insta- love (as their friendship period was for about 3/4 of the book.)

I liked the author's unique take on the paranormal side of the story because there's no sign of the generic werewolf or vampire but instead new creations and lesser touch creatures such as Mucky Face and Boggy Mon,that live in the swamp near Briony's home and Brownies. The paranormal genre is saturated and it's nice to see something new and fresh that can add to the genre.

Final words: Unfortunately, Chime wasn't the book for me because of the writing that left me feeling disconnected but there were some aspects that I liked (which is why I gave it an extra half star.) It is a refreshing take on the paranormal historical,  and there were some beautiful descriptions in parts. There have been some gushing 5 star reviews from other readers and bloggers for Chime, so if your interest has been aroused from the synopsis, then I suggest you decide what to make of it for yourself!

Rating: 2.5 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury UK for providing me with this review copy.

I've seen lots of very mixed reviews for Chime. If you've read it, what did you think of it? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comment section!


  1. So I am hearing many mixed things about this book. I like that you really went into detail about why you found the style difficult to get on with at times. I still think I will enjoy this. I am going to give it a go when I'm looking for a challenging read.

  2. @ Becky Give it a try and see what you think- I'd be interested to see your thoughts on it. It seems that it's either a book people absolutely love or its not the book for them.

  3. I picked this up awhile back but bad timing got a hold of me so I was going to go back to it. Now I think I won't! There's just too many other books to sift through. --Thanks for the review.

  4. I might have to check it out sometime...I doubt I'll like it, but books that I doubt make me tend to want to read them out of curiosity. ^.^ Good review.

  5. It's a pity it wasn't for you, but it does sound original!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, I don't think it worked when you followed me though! Myabe you could try again?

  6. l just couldn't get into this.
    l think it's either for you or isn't. It is very different!

  7. What initially turned me off was the description of the main character. I just don't think I want to spend time with someone who is so depressed and filled with self-blame.

    I hadn't even heard about the writing style, but that turns me off even more. Breaking into verse? No, I don't think this is the book for me. Thanks for the info about the writing style.

  8. I've seen some positive reviews of this one so it's great to see a more critical perspective as well. I think that style of writing would turn me off too, so I'm not sure if this is really my kind of book. Appreciate the honest review, Stephanie :)

    Also, about Wither, not sure if you got them but I sent you a few DMs on Twitter trying to answer your question :D


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Stephanie x