November 21, 2011
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Briony Larkin (first name pronounced briny) doesn’t want to die but its inevitable and it will happen soon. After all, that’s what happens when a witch goes to trial.
What makes someone a witch? It isn’t a conscious choice as far as Briony can tell, but there are things that set her apart from the people around her. For one, Briony can see and hear the Ancient Ones — brownies, wights and more. When she is angry or jealous, something bad is bound to happen. It might be as innocent seeming as another child taking a spill from a swing or as dire as a tidal wave sweeping up and dosing the parsonage. No matter what it is, someone is bound to get hurt.
Then Eldric comes to stay with her family. Eldric is a self-confessed bad boy. Good boys, after all, do not get expelled from college. Bad though he may be, the children of the village love his sense of play and fun and the many fidgets he crafts from next to nothing. Eldric even gets along with Rose, Briony’s twin sister, the girl who fell from the swing and hasn’t been right since. As she gets to know him, Briony yearns for the things that normal girls have. Love and light and life.
Set in early industrial England, Billingsley has crafted a world of science and magic. It is a world where angered swamp spirits bring illness to the village and only one girl can save those who fall ill but it may mean sacrificing her own life.
Romance, adventure and magic combine in a gripping story. There’s enough action in this for boy readers but all the talk of feelings may leave them cold. Still, the desire to brilliantly solve the problems twining throughout this story may keep them reading. I know they kept me hanging on until the last page.
Billingsley is a gifted story teller. Her stories manage to be both personal, focused on the emotion and longing of a handful of characters, and epic, dealing with big issues like self-identity, love and sacrifice.
This would make an excellent Christmas read.