Review - Chime - Franny Billingsley

Title: Chime
Author: Franny Billingsley
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publication: March 17th 2011, Dial
Pages: 361 pages, Hardback
Source: Library, but will be buying my own copy!

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

I wasn't planning on reading Chime, I just by chance stumbled upon it as I was browsing the library's bookshelves. The gorgeous cover first drew me in and the unusual synopsis persuaded me to take it out. Now, as a rule, I don't generally read witchy books but this didn't look too dark and I was pleasantly surprised.  I'm extremely glad I read it.

Chime is about seventeen year old Briony Larkin who believes she is a very wicked girl indeed, a very wicked girl whom also happens to be a witch. In her community, witches are hanged, Briony knows that in order to live she needs to keep that a secret...not that she believes she should live for all the wicked deeds she has committed. A girl who killed her stepmother and made her sister fall off a swing, hitting her head, never quite being the same again. Briony knows that if she gets jealous or feels hatred or goes into the swamp, where she most loves to be, bad things will happen, proving Briony's wickedness. Her stepmother drilled that in her head every day. Things change, however, when a boy-man with his tawny mane, golden eyes and curling lion smile called Eldric comes to stay with his father and tutor at the parsonage. Eldric could possibly be the key to demolishing Briony's self-hatred from her, whilst helping her unravel her past. Secrets will be revealed, ones that you'd never expect.

I adored this book, from the enchanting characters, the unusual magical world and the poetic writing, I couldn't gobble this up fast enough. This book is a gem. It holds such a magical story and I would love to revisit this world time and time again. After I purchase my very own copy of Chime, I shall be shoving this book into the hands of everyone and re-reading it again, myself.

I love the setting of this book. As you read it, you can feel the wind rushing through your hair, your feet sinking into the swamp's dampened earth, you can perfectly picture Briony's house, her surroundings, the Alehouse. It's a world I love being in. An unusual world full of mythical creatures that haven't been written about before. There are spirits, the Old Ones, ones that beg Briony for a story from her creative mouth. There are witches. There are Brownies, a particular one that follows Briony around like a puppy dog, one that is her long-lost friend. This book is quite unlike anything I have previously read. It has an old, dark atmosphere to it, whilst simultaneously obtaining the feeling of a fairy tale from many years ago. All I can say is that you will love this atmosphere and Briony's world, as you get to venture the swamp with her and her little village, you will truly feel like you have been exported to another world.

I will admit, the writing can be quite hard to grasp and it initially slowed down my reading, but at a certain point in the book you will start understanding the language in which they speak and from then you will really be immersed in the story and be left turning the pages, wanting to drink in every single word. There were some stunning descriptive passages, Franny is a phenomenal writer. I loved the writing, it was stunning, this author has pure, raw talent. The words are strung together in perfect order to create a scrumptious read.

There wasn't much that happened as far as the plot goes, it wasn't action packed with adventure and danger and intrigue but the story didn't need too much happening. It was already brimming with secrets and mysteries that will have you trying to find the clues and solve the puzzle around Briony's life. The ending had me shocked but it ended perfectly, i t couldn't have been better.

The characters, I am not afraid to say I fell in love with them. They were all so unique and had their own flaws and insecurities. Their imperfections made them perfect in my eyes. 

 There was Briony, a witch, a wicked girl as she had been taught to believe. Never have I met a character with so much self hatred. Not the pitying kind either, such as woe-is-me, but a pure, raw hatred for herself and for what she has done. The lies she has been fed have damaged her beyond belief. She makes an abundance of sacrifices, even though she believes that they will never make her feel any better for the things she has done. You will feel sorry for Briony, you will want to be her friend, help her through her tragic life -  if she'll let you. She was also witty, sarcastic, clever and brave. She puts other female heroines to shame, the ones that are dependent on others and aren't capable to think for themselves. Briony isn't afraid to show that despite her fragility, she can still be strong and needn't be dependent on no one. I adored Briony, witch and wolfgirl.

Then there is Eldric, the lion-boy with his boy-manliness. Words cannot describe how much I love Eldric, he is definitely one of my new favourite male characters! He is a sweet, caring gentleman with a good sense of humour and taste for adventure. I adored him and I'm pretty sure you will too!

All the other characters played some role in the story. From Briony's twin sister Rose, (whom I adored) is beautiful and complicated with an illness rumoured to be caused by Briony's wickedness. She plays a fundamental role in the story, one that I didn't quite expect. I shan't say any more  as it might spoil the story, but the characters are hiding secrets, secrets that once unravelled will leave you quite shocked.

The romance in this book was the prime example of how a YA romance should be constructed and presented. My oh was perfect and every single thing about this romance was as pleasant and refreshing as a swim in the ice cold sea on a blistering day. They started off as friends, running about the village, creating their own Bad Boy Fraternity with their new Latin word inventions, then progressed to boxing lessons (what a fine fistibus Miss Briony acquires!) and eventually to romance. It was absolutely perfect, there witty banter left me in stitches and had me wanting to read it over and over again. My eyes were riveted to the page whenever there was a scene with both Eldric and Briony, as I know it would never fail to amuse me! It was just so utterly perfect in every way, and I hope one day I will have a friendship and more just like Eldric and Briony's.

This book was a pure gem. Everyone should read this book. Everyone must have the same experience as I did with this book. Being so enchanted by the world, so amused by the characters, so in love with the romance that takes place. I will be definitely buying myself a copy of this book and recommending it to everyone, as it is now definitely one of my favourites. It is just so utterly compelling and authentic and I loved every single minute of it. It might take a while to familiarise yourself with the writing but continue to read it, it's worth it. Please, read this book now. Fall in love with it just as I did. A spectacular novel from an author with raw, God-given talent.

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!

“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.
I know you believe you're giving me a chance—or, rather, it's the Chime Child giving me the chance. She's desperate, of course, not to hang an innocent girl again, but please believe me: Nothing in my story will absolve me of guilt. It will only prove what I've already told you, which is that I'm wicked. Can't the Chime Child take my word for it?
In any event, where does she expect me to begin? The story of a wicked girl has no true beginning. I'd have to begin with the day I was born.
If Eldric were to tell the story, he'd likely begin with himself, on the day he arrived in the Swampsea. That's where proper stories begin, don't they, when the handsome stranger arrives and everything goes wrong?
But this isn't a proper story, and I'm telling you, I ought to be hanged.” 

“I've been thinking," said the Eldric image.
"Ooh, thinking!" I said. "Shall I tell your father?"
"Very funny," said Eldric, but he was laughing.”

“The first meeting of the Fraternitus Bad-Boyificus was also to be my first fighting lesson. I made a fist and showed it to Eldric.
"Fistibus Briony." I shook my fist. "Eldric terrorificorumest?"
"Terrific? I'm terrific!"
"Not terrific!" I said. "Quite the opposite. Listen carefully: terrorificorum."
"Hmm," said Eldric. 
"Grant me patience, O Jupiter Magnificum!"
"Not terrified!" shouted Eldric at last. "Never terrified of Briony's fistibus!"
We laughed and laughed.”

“I don't like my shoes,' said Rose.
'I'm wearing my shoes and you don't see me complain.'
'You only hear a person complain,' said Rose. 'Not see.' How has Rose lived for seventeen years and no one has killed her, not once?”

"Never punch from the elbow.""Of course not," I said. "Only a stupidibus would fight like that."Guess what? I can punch as well as make people laugh. 

My fist flew forward.
"Nicely done!" said Eldric, although it had glanced off of his palm like a pebble.
"Why aren't you begging for mercy?"
"I make a point never to do so," said Eldric. It puts one at a disadvantage." 
That girl was gone; wolfgirl had returned. Wolfgirl, who was leaf dance and moon claw and tooth gleam. When Jupiter sizzled the air with lightning bolts, she caught them on the fly.
"Nice throw, Jupiter!"
"Nice catch, wolfgirl!"
Her mouth was a cavern of stars. 
"Excellent fistibus," said Eldric, but he wasn't done with my hand. He inspected my left palm, the pucker of scars.
"There's no fortune to be read in that palm," I said, but of course he wanted to know about it; of course he'd been dying to ask since we first met. "Do you want the version of the story in which I'm a hero, or do you want the true version?"
"Both," said Eldric.
"Greedy!" I said. 
“Guess what it is that turns plants to coal.
Guess what it is that turns limestone to marble.
Guess what it is that turns Briony's heart to stone.
Pressure is uncomfortable, but so are the gallows. Keep your secrets, wolfgirl. Dance your fists with Eldric's, snatch lightning from the gods. Howl at the moon, at the blood-red moon. Let your mouth be a cavern of stars.”  
“This is what I want. I want people to take care of me. I want them to force comfort upon me. I want the soft-pillow feeling that I associate with memories of being ill when I was younger, soft pillows and fresh linens and satin-edged blankets and hot chocolate. It's not so much the comfort itself as knowing there's someone who wants to take care of you.”  
"Remember: You're the girl with nothing below the surface. Scratch it and what do you find? More surface." 
“If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth. I love you. I believe it. I believe I am loveable. How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?”  

“...And then it occurred to him to wonder whether you actually knew what a seduction involves. The details, I mean."
I spread my wicked left hand over my face, but surely slices of crimson tide showed between my fingers. "You're right," I said.
"That you're sorry?"
"That I'm sorry." 
"What shall I tell your father?" said Eldric.
"Don't tell him anything!"
"You teased it out of me," said Eldric."You ought to answer. It has your fatehr worried, actually."
"Tell him I read alot." I could almost hear the curling lion's smile in Eldric's voice.”
"How many bones did he set?" I cared about it much less than they did. It's my Florence Nightingale calm, I suppose.
There was a pause.
"Twenty-seven," said Father.
There was a question mark in that pause. "How many bones are in the hand?"
Another pause.
"Twenty-seven," said Eldric. 
“The boy shall have a proper beating,' said Cecil.'But I beat him already,' I said, 'and don't tell me I didn't do it properly. I'm touchy about these things.”