Monday, March 12, 2012
Chime Book 5
"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."
This book was weird! Weird enough, I've put a whole lot of time into trying to figure how to review it. The problem is I don't want to be overly harsh, but there were a lot of things I didn't like about it, and I'm not sure it's so much that I didn't like them as they just didn't work.
I've seen reviews that call Briony a clever main character. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I agree. She hates herself, and based on the things she believes about herself that is understandable, but she never tries to explore why she remembers more about being told these things than actually doing them, or why only one person would notice and keep telling her that. Sometimes, she almost reads like a whipped victim. Another problem is she likes to talk about herself in the 3rd person. It doesn't work because the book is in first person, but most of it reads like 3rd person narration anyhow. Then when Briony goes on for paragraphs in the third person, it's very easy to become completely lost.
I think (the best I could tell) the book takes place in some small village in England. (I assume this b/c of all the references to London and the queen). The dialect is distracting to show you just how distracting I'm going to include a couple of lines of dialect. These aren't an on-going conversation, just two separate lines that I easily remember.
"Girl what can see ghost." Translation: Girl who can see ghost.
"Don't believe nothing what no witch said."
"It was the boggy mun who kilt us."
And whole paragraphs of that is a pain! Not to mention it sounds more like the South than England. Fortunately, most of the narration isn't written like that, but I think in places it is. And even the narration isn't easy to follow. I've seen people complain that it's overwritten. I didn't really think so. I admired the metaphors. My biggest problem was just that it jumped around so much. Sometimes multiple times in pages. Once I got into the writing style, the book was actually witty/funny in places and I finally started to care what happened, but it took me 200 pages to get there.
Lastly, (and for me this was the smallest problem), every assumption you make in the first chapter is correct. It's not really a surprise ending.
The inside flap and even the prologue talk a lot about Eldric, the romantic interest, being a beautiful stranger who refuses to believe that Briony is wicked. It sets up a romance. This is not a romance. Don't be fooled. This book gets really dark in places and can be very detailed. I think this is the best thing it has going for it and it will appeal to some readers, even though it completely turned me off.
The only thing I really liked about it is the undercurrent of emotional abuse. It wasn't really even painted as abuse more like a parent telling Briony things that would harm her in order to manipulate her, so the parent could get what they needed. But the damage it did to her and the way she struggled with trying to figure out what actually happened and if she was a bad person was very real. I think/hope kids in situations like that are able to see the parallel.
I know this book has got rave reviews and won awards, but I cannot give it more than a 2 star review. Because this book is so unique, I was worried about how to review it fairly. I finally made a list of things I liked and things I didn't like and realized there was very little I liked about it. Therefore, 2 stars it is.