Chime by Franny Billingsley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yet another argument for a 4.5 rating!
Chime takes place during turn-of-the-last-century England in a town surrounded by the Swampsea and inhabited by Old Ones, including a Bogey Mun, Muckey Face, a Brownie, Dark Muses and other fantastic creatures. Many trials include participation by the Chime Child, someone born at midnight with a foot in both worlds, so that the Old Ones get legal representation and justice. Briony is a witch, holder of dark secrets and able to see these Old Ones. Rose, her twin sister, is a little... different. Their Reverend Father has left them along for the most part, particularly after their Stepmother dies. Suddenly he's interested in a more active role, especially when Eldric moves in to their house. Eldric's father represents the future, building a pumping station to drain the swamp and building a railroad connecting the town to London. Anyone that doesn't expect that to create problems, leave now.
As the book progresses, Briony's world changes more than that of the town. Her assumptions about her life, Rose's mental state and how things should be are often wrong; the addition of Edric to their world leads her out of innocent childhood mirrors his father's tying the town to the Big City, destroying the rural innocence.
The somewhat stilted way Rose and Briony speak, always "preferring to" or "preferring not to", reminded me of Bartleby and started to get a tiny bit annoying. The mystery surrounding Stepmother's death (fully explained by the end) had hints of We Have Always Lived in the Castle but with less creep factor. Those elements aside, this is a richly imagined world that will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy this variant on paranormal romance. Unfortunately, I had to really push the book because so many of my students are tired of paranormal books.
Copy provided by publisher.
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