Book Review: Chime by Franny Billingsley

ChimeChime by Franny Billingsley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Source: ARC giveaway via GoodReads

There are several kinds of silence. There’s the silence of being alone, which I like well enough. Then there’s the silence of one’s father. The silence when you have nothing to say and he has nothing to say. The silence between you after investigation of your stepmother’s death.

Briony Larkin has a secret, a secret she must never tell. Because of her secret, her twin sister was injured, her stepmother is dead, and if she tells her secret, Briony will be dead, too, hanged as a witch by the people of the Swampsea. So, she keeps quiet, keeping to herself in a town where she feels like an outsider despite having lived there all her life. It takes a newcomer to the Swampsea, handsome, cosmopolitan Eldric, to uncover secrets even Briony never knew she was keeping.

After reading rave reviews of Chime all over the place, I was a little nervous. What if it didn’t live up to the hype? I needn’t have worried. Briony is clever and self-deprecating, and her humor shines in the first-person narration. The setting is a rural village in early twentieth-century England, but an England in which the Old Ones are known to be present. In the dark swampland, mysterious creatures threaten humans who venture too far. In the village itself, there are brownies and Dark Muses. Most of the creatures remain unseen to those without the Second Sight. Briony can see them and wishes she could not, because she knows that it means she is a witch.

Briony knows many things, but as the reader learns, not all of them are true. She is a wonderfully developed unreliable narratorm and her distinctive voice is a pleasure to read. It is easy to be swept right up into the world of Chime. Billingsley blends fantasy and magic with the almost-magic real technological advances of the turn of the (twentieth) century, along with elements of mystery and romance. Recommend to fantasy lovers looking for something new and different.

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