Chime by Franny Billingsley
Dial Books, 2011
"I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please. I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story. I can't relive those memories - the touch of the Dead Hand, the smell of eel, the gulp and swallow of the swamp. How can you possibly think me innocent? Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart." (p.1)And so begins the story of seventeen-year-old Briony Larkin: daughter of a village clergyman, twin sister, keeper of a terrible secret. She's a witch, and she called up a wind that injured her sister, and she killed her stepmother. She can't share her secret or ease her burden - they hang witches.
We meet Briony at her trial, and then flash back to the day Eldric arrives in town ("That's where proper stories begin, don't they, when the handsome stranger arrives and everything goes wrong?" p.2). As the two become friends, Briony struggles to continue to keep her secret when faced with someone who wants to not only know it, but to help.
When Briony decides she must sacrifice herself to save her sister and the children taken ill by the swamp cough, her secret comes to light - which leads us to her trial, where, as it turns out, Briony is not the only good at keeping secrets.
The first chapter sucked me in...but, beyond that, it didn't transistion into an easy read - with a world and creatures to learn, and the way Briony narrates, but I quickly became engrossed. The latter half flew by, and by the end, the book had been such a rewarding experience.
It's a gorgeously written tale of witchcraft and otherwordly creatures, with mystery and a sometimes rocky, but swoon-worthy romance. But, it's also about discovering the truth, and seeking redemption and forgiveness, and most importantly, learning to love yourself.
Reviewed from library copy