Everything bad that’s happened in Briony Larkin’s life is all her fault, for one simple fact; she is a witch. It is she who burned down the library, who caused illness in her family, who must then protect her sister Rose from all harm. As such, she is no longer going to the swamp, where she might ask the fae to do harm for her by accident, and instead stays close by the parsonage to protect her sister and keep to the right path. But when a young man, Eldric, comes to live with them, and worms his way into her family, Briony’s life and assumptions are turned upside down.
I loved this book. I read several excellent reviews from a number of other trusted bloggers, enough to make me buy it, but I didn’t actually understand how much I’d love it until I began reading it. Billingsley uses one of my very favourite devices, the unreliable narrator whose worldview changes radically as he or she realises some important truths, and combines that with a delightful mix of fantasy, romance, and elegant writing to make a truly outstanding novel.
The book starts out slightly confusing. Briony is a narrator that lives very much inside her own head, and as a result the story is told fractiously; it takes a while for us to work out exactly what she is talking about, why she feels threatened by Eldric and his family, and about Rose’s peculiar behaviour. But once hooked, I couldn’t stop reading, and devoured the entire book in a single evening. I loved the atmosphere, which was very much like England a hundred years ago and with more magic. The swamp reminded me of the way the fens were in Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain, although the books themselves are wildly different; a magical and mysterious place that no longer exists in the modern world, long past drained to produce more land for houses, farms, and monetary gain in general.
It was the relationships and how they grew that really affected me, though; I absolutely adored Eldric and the way he bonded with each of the characters, especially Briony and Rose. He really causes her to question all of the assumptions she’s built up over the years. Backing him up is Rose, who seems to understand more about everything that’s happened despite her own peculiarities. I loved how Eldric and Briony so clearly made one another happy, too, and the completely organic way their relationship grew over the course of the narrative. It’s completely in contrast to the other young male character, Cecil, who attempts to bully Briony into marrying him.
In fact, just talking about Chime makes me want to read it again, which for me is a sure sign of an incredible read. It immediately secured its place on my new “to be re-read” shelves, and as such I completely recommend you make space for it on yours, too.