Summary: Briony can see the Old Ones that live in the swamp by her house–and so Briony’s stepmother told her she was a witch. But witches are not welcome in the village, and Briony must work hard to keep her powers secret. Even though she believes she deserves death for all the harm she has caused to others. Even though there is a new boy in town who makes living look very attractive.
Review: Chime could be a very compelling book for the right reader. The writing and the story were refreshingly new. The setting was very interesting and vividly described, ranging from the swamp, the dangerous abode of most of the Old Ones, to the parsonage to the rest of the town. A little more information to pin it down to a precise location would have made it nearly perfect.
Unfortunately, I found much of the book to be rather annoying. Briony, through whose eyes the story is told, has thought processes and speech patterns that came across as juvenile. She continuously describes things as her “witchy anger” or her “witchy hand,” which just makes her power sound cutesy instead of dangerous. She regularly calls the love interest a “boy-man,” which is an apt observation when he first appears, but which becomes old quickly. Again, it makes him hard to take seriously at times, even though he is a pretty strong love interest—mysterious, protective, loyal, chivalrous, and a “bad boy.” I could have done without that constant reference, as well, however. He is a little old to be a “bad boy” or at least to refer to himself as one, along with Briony.
Briony also has the exasperating habit reminding herself how much she hates herself and of assuring the reader that she is a terrible, wicked person. Yes, readers are supposed to realize these are only her thoughts and see the discrepancies between them and reality and think about how this might have occurred (ooh, mystery!). It is still annoying and a little depressing. And it takes the majority of the book for her to change her mind.
Luckily, her twin sister Rose is a fairly endearing character. Briony relates how she hit her head when she was seven and how she has not been quite right ever since—hence, Briony’s obsession with caring for her. Yet Rose is truly interesting and tends to make some of the best observations in the book. She tends to have strange thoughts and speech, too, but she has a reason. She comes across as quirky instead of just acting too young for her age.
There are also some very nice, clear clues given as to who the true villains of the story are. Readers will be able to catch onto them in a timely manner and piece everything together. Briony does miss most of these clues, being too obsessed with hating herself, but her obliviousness is not particularly frustrating. Overall, this is a mystery that allows readers to see what is happening without making it overly obvious.
Chime has its charms. There were times I very much enjoyed it. Readers will just have to make the call as to how much self-hating, immature characters will detract from their own experience of the plot, romance, and mystery.