Released: April 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury PLC
Rating: 5/5 *First of 2012!*
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.
Chime is one of those books where the synopsis can never prepare you for the wonder contained within the pages. Upon reading the first chapter (which should've been a prologue really) I knew I was going to really enjoy this book.
I loved Briony as much as I have ever loved any protagonist in any book. This is set in 1910's England and yet Briony is the snarkiest most antisocial character I've ever come across. She pretty much hates everyone, especially her father and she has no qualms about saying so. Yet it was so easy to like her. She felt so real. I really liked her sister, Rose. In another time period I am almost 100% sure she would be diagnosed with high-functioning autism. She exhibited a lot of the signs of it yet it was never said what was actually up with her. She displayed a lot of the characteristic behaviours of an autistic child that can often be quite annoying but actually in Rose were really endearing.
The storyline was slightly confusing only because I found it hard to grasp the chronology of it all. Briony referenced many events that happened years and years ago and it took me a while to get a grasp on what happened when. I think a lot of the obscurity was purposeful though, so you couldn't figure out how it was going to end. The actual story of the swamp cough and Briony's bargain with the swampking to save her sister was so, so clever. I really enjoyed how it all came together in the end and how all the little, seemingly insignificant details added together to create the overall picture. The love story aspect was so perfect, there was no insta-love and you were never sure how it would play out until it actually did play out.
The writing however, was the best part of the book for me. It's some of the best writing I've ever experienced. Beautiful, whimsical, a tiny bit historic and brimming with humour and a unique particularity to it that I really enjoyed. I found myself reading excerpts of it to my boyfriend over skype, even though he really didn't care. It was one of those books that made me want to highlight my favourite quotations, write them all over my walls, get them tattooed onto my very skin I loved it that much. My only criticism is that the writing really should've been anglicised considering it is based in England with English characters. The Americanisms got to me.
Overall Chime was a really surprising and utterly enjoyable read. A little bit historical, a little bit folklore-y with some mystery and intrigue all woven together with complex relationships and emotions and a mildly disturbing but ultimately loveable protagonist. If Chime has been sat on your shelf waiting for you, pick it up NOW. If Chime has been winking at you from your Amazon wishlist, buy it NOW. Genuinely the best book I have read so far this year.