Chime by Franny Billingsley
This review was a challenge for me because I wasn't actually sure if I'd get around to writing it. Every once in a while, there comes a book where everyone else is raving about how amazing it is, but when I sit down with it, I feel like I'm missing something. That's almost how I felt with Chime by Franny Billingsley in the beginning, but I'm glad that I stuck it out and read it to the end. I must admit that it took me a while to get there, though.
Briony lives in late 1800s/early 1900s England in the tiny town of Swampsea, located not far from a swamp. Even though she's only 17, Briony still lives with her share of secrets, the two biggest being that she is a witch and that she is responsible for the accident that left her twin sister, Rose, unstable. The arrival of Mr. Clayborne, an engineer who wants to drain the swamp, angers the local spirits who live in the murky waters, so they send the swamp cough and infect the local children. When Rose falls ill, Briony knows she must do whatever it takes to save her sister, even if it means revealing her secrets and denying her feelings for Eldric, Mr. Clayborne's son.
The premise sounded like this book would be something absolutely right up my alley. I love England, I love history, I love fantasy, and it even has a dash of romance to it. The plot and the characters weren't what I found myself struggling with - it was Briony's narrative style. I loved getting to know this story from her point of view, but it took me well into halfway through the book to get used to her way of telling it. She switches back and forth between first and third person, oftentimes when telling a story about something that happened to her, she refers to herself as "Briony" and "she" which could throw me off from time to time. The first half of the novel also has a bit of a slower pace to it because Briony is so dedicated to hating herself for the things she blames herself for. I understand why Billingsley wanted to stress Briony's mindset, but I really appreciated it when the plot got moving along and the action picked up drastically in the second half of the novel.
Overall, I the story was alright. I feel that stand alone fantasy stories are hard to come by these days, and Chime is a decent one. However, I must stress that this is a book that requires its readers to be patient because they will have to wait for the story to unfold. If you're willing to wait for it, there's an intricate and fresh take on fantasy within these pages.
Comments welcome and, as always, happy reading!
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