29 March 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Briony knows she is a witch. She knows that she is guilty of hurting her beloved stepmother. She also knows that, now her stepmother is dead, she must look after her beautiful but complicated twin sister, Rose. Then the energetic, electric, golden-haired Eldric arrives in her home town of Swampsea, and everything that Briony thinks she knows about herself and her life is turned magically, dizzyingly, upside down.

This book was simply excellent. It's already my fave for the month, and it's up there with Across the Universe for one of my faves of the year. It's strange, though, because for the first few pages I was a bit confused. I thought that Briony's voice, especially, was flat and rather dead. However, as the book went along I realized that Briony had a distinct, beautiful voice, and that she had convinced herself that she wasn't allowed to feel. The lack of feelings contributed to the "dead"ness of her tone, but somehow Briony snuck through that dead tone, shining as a character even through all her attempts to stifle herself and her life. This subtlety of craft in writing really shone and made this book spectacular. Not that it needed a ton of help: the plot is very Grimm-esque with its darkness and its magic, the other characters are unique and believeable, and the plot twists are exciting and yet not insane. Billingsley is also excellent at portraying Rose, and her madness is dealt with in a very refreshing manner. Rose is a girl who is mad, not a madness that needs a name, and it is nice to see a mentally handicapped character 1) represented as a major character in a book, and 2) handled in such a human manner. The romance between Briony and Eldric is well-handled, and the love triangle provides a great contrast for the emotion that Briony tries very hard to bury. It's a great example of love, too, because it develops in a natural manner and we can see Briony's fondness growing even through her icy facade.




I think my only downside to this book is that I figured out the final twist early, and not because of the writing, but because of the title. Please, no more spoilers in titles!

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