April 4th 2011
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 not your average YA book. I think that's probably the best way I can start this review. It is definitely not going to be to everyone's taste, and I know a lot of people gave up on it pretty early (trust me, I was one of them) as it's very hard to get into, but honestly, it is worth it. Or at least, in my case it was.
I first tried to read this book in March, and try as I might, I just could NOT get into it. I'd had a plethora of easy, fun, contemp reads, and for some reason me and this book didn't click. So I gave up and put it away for a while. I wasn't going to DNF it, but I knew I wasn't going to try it again for a while. Come December, I'm in a bit of a funk, so I decide I'm going to try it again just for the hell of it. Won't do me any harm, right?
I'll admit, it was still quite hard to get into, and you do kind of have to force yourself through the first 60-100 pages, but please, please do. And if you still don't like it when you've read it all, fine, but you cannot deny that it is one of the most inventive, clever, original, different, fascinating books that you've read. You just can't. Like, that's not even my opinion, it is just pure fact. And it does deserve it's place on the Book Award list as much as Shine, and it does deserve more recognition and to be read more by people. IMO.
At first, I was very confused. Very, very confused. The writing style was very jumpy and Briony is a little bit hard to get used to at first. I mean, she's just so odd, and different from the kinds of MCs you get in YA. She is so stuck in hating herself that it's almost contrived, and she's very kind of self-assured in her own way. She's so stuck on the fact that she's wicked that it's hard to like her. At first. But she's not a self pitiful person. She hates herself not like an emotion, but like it's just a fact, and she just kind of gets on with it, especially when Eldric comes along and she starts to actually show her personality to someone.
And honestly, I love Eldric. Not in a fancying kind of way, but he's just kind of incredible, y'know? As Briony says, he's electric and alive and like a lion. He's rarely ever down and always sarcastic and funny and there was a lot of excellent banter and friendship and you were never certain if he truly liked Briony, because he's 22 and she's only 17 and she's innocent in that way at least, and she doesn't really know anything... She doesn't even think she's capable of love and stuff so...
The plot is very confusing, and Briony herself is not particularly reliable as a narrator, but that just means that everything that comes up is a surprise, and a completely convincing surprise to both the reader and Briony, as you're never completely sure what's going on. Until the end, where everything comes together (as it usually does). And the writing is really beautiful. I got a really strong sense of Briony and who she was and exactly how she thought and when I got used to it, I got kind of lost in it. The imagery is stunning and the setting of Swampsea along with the old ones, and Lion-Boy and Wolfgirl, and Rose who's so clever in her own way, and all the mistruths that we thought were truths for so long, everything was just so vivid, and all the events were so blurred by Briony's perspective on it. I haven't felt this involved in a character, because she is just so distinct and set in her ways. I can't really describe it well. I guess you'll just have to read it! ;)
This book will not be for everyone, and it is kind of a labour of love. It takes effort to get into, and will not be appealing to a lot of people, and some people will just hate it because it's not easy to read, or isn't all romantic, or because Briony is not a character you are meant to become or feel like you are, but her story is well worth sticking through. It took me a while to finally properly read this book, but it was so worth it, and I know I'm kind of in a minority here, but I thought it was kind of amazing. So go forth, and read it, my younglings!
*PS: I have no idea why I just called you younglings. It will never happen again. I promise.