Witches can’t cry. Just ask seventeen-year-old Briony Larkin. She knows this, Briony of the Swampsea and the second sight. But witches aren’t supposed to let anyone know they’re witches; they’re supposed to guard their secrets jealously, and to never reveal themselves for who they really are to anyone. Even if they feel guilt, and shame, like Briony, who blames herself for the death of her stepmother, and for the “accident” that destroyed her twin sister Rose’s mind, and which threatens all of the children of Swampsea. But is Briony really a witch, just because her stepmother told her she was before she died of arsenic poisoning? A clergyman’s daughter can’t possibly be a witch, can she? Can a young man, Eldric, “with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy,” help Briony save her from herself? Will the Chime Child act to protect Briony, Rose, and the children of the Swampsea? Chime, the amazing, suspenseful, inventive, and spell-binding powerful supernatural thriller/romance novel by award-winning author Franny Billingsley is an enchanting novel that will leave you wondering if there is still magic left in this world.
The novel is told in the first-person, by Briony. Though she believes she is a witch, she is not proud of it, and she thinks that her magic has resulted in some terrible things happening. She thinks that, though she didn’t poison her stepmother, she is responsible for her broken spine, and she believes her stepmother would have died from complications resulting from that, eventually. And, Briony is certain that she is responsible for calling up the winds the day Rose fell from her swing, and hit her head upon a rock. We read about the guilt she feels for the fire that burned the Parsonage’s library, and for calling up the flood waves that broke her Stepmother’s back and flooded the library.
Briony is a very likable character, despite what she claims she’s done, and her shame and guilt at what’s happened to her stepmother and Rose. She seems to really love and to care for Rose, and she tries to keep the promise she made to her stepmother to watch out for and protect Rose. But she couldn’t do anything to protect Rose from getting a racking cough, which she fears might be a sign of the fatal “swamp cough.” If Briony is truly a witch, she is one who has little control over her powers. She has second sight, and can tell when people are about to die; but, she has little or no control over the Old Ones in the Swampsea, like the Boggy Mun, the Dead Hand, the Dark Muses, or other swamp witches.
Rose is another character I liked in Chime. Her accident has left her intellectually and emotionally damaged, and whenever she doesn’t get her way, or is upset about something, she lets out a high-pitched scream in the tone of B flat that lasts for a long time. She doesn’t like being around men, and will try to hide in the cupboards or under the table or run away into the swamp if she is confronted by a situation she can’t handle. Rose is sweet, and actually understands more than she lets on. I found the relationship she has with her sister, Briony, and that she had with her Stepmother, to be touching. They would cut paper up into tiny bits for her (she loves paper) and arrange the bits into collages for her.
Chime is one of the most unique and enchanting supernatural romance thrillers I’ve read. Briony’s tale, of being a “wolfgirl” and growing up knowing all about the dangers of the Swampsea and the Old Ones, is one that will haunt you and which you will fondly remember long after you finish reading the book. There is enough romance in it to appeal to female teens, and enough magic, adventure, and supernatural elements in it to also make the book one male teens will enjoy reading. The author, Franny Billingsley, also wrote Well-Wished, which was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; and The Folk Keeper, which recieved the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction, was an ALA Notable Book and a School Library Journal Booklist Bulletin and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. This book, I’m sure, will follow suit, and will also win awards for being an excellent Young Adult book. I’d highly recommend Chime to anyone who loves reading entertaining. suspenseful, page-turning Fantasy novels.