Published March 17, 2011
Purchased Copy Reviewed by Megan
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. -Goodreads
See Megan. See Megan gush. See Megan gush with wild abandon.
Briony Larkin is not your typical witch. She does not ride a broom or stand before a steaming cauldron. She is a twin sister, the daughter of a pastor, and she was just unfortunate enough to be born without a birthday. Briony believes she is evil and should be hanged and, in fact, begins her story in just that way:
"I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please."
Her stepmother had corrupted Briony's "brain paths" so that Briony blames herself for every wrong thing around her. But the truth is not always as it seems.
Yes, Briony can commune with the Old Ones, but she doesn't do so to wreak havoc. Everything that Briony has done was in order to make things better. She just doesn't remember that.
The language in this book is beautiful. Like beautiful to the point I was salivating. It's poetic in a way that doesn't stop the action. Every single word moves the story forward and the lyricalness* of the writing works to build the ethereal world in which it exists. When you think of a town called Swampsea, set in the British Isles, it will not do to portray that town with clunky language or long sentences. The sentences are like breaths that hang in front of your lips, exhaled in the cold. They are almost tangible things that bring the story to life. The words are delicious, completely appetizing and a perfect contribution to the story that is being told. If it is not yet obvious, I am jealous of the writing in this book. I am failing miserably at mimicking her style. I will leave Franny (I call her Franny now) to the world of Chime and I'll stay in the world of reviewing Chime.
I love Briony because even though she is broken, she is strong and knows who she is. She says things like, "I stood up. What was I doing here? I hated other people my age. How stupid they were. I should hate to be a regular girl with a sugar-plum voice. I should hate to have swan-like lashes, and a thick, sooty neck. I sound as though I'm joking, I know, but I should truly hate to be like Leanne, so charming and ordinary and stuffed with cliched feelings. I'm so glad I'm the ice maiden. Who wants to be crying over every stray dog?" Though the icy exterior melts as the story progresses, she will never be this typical girl. She will remain the wolf-girl who runs through the swamps and learns to box.
And Eldric. You guys, HOW I SWOONED. He is not the usual perfect boy. Both Eldric and Briony are aware of their own faults and each other's faults and the way they engage with one another is spectacular. ("I thought for a moment you were going to be serious." "Not even for a moment.") They are witty and scared and learn from each other. Eldric teaches Briony that it is okay to love and be loved, and Briony sort of tames the wild lion boy-man, but not so much that they won't continue to run together. There isn't a "happily ever after" in this story. It is more of a "hey, so, let's try this thing out and see what happens even though I'm pretty sure it's gonna be awesome and we're going to be together forever." And I love it so much more for that. They have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I cheer so hard for their future.**
*I may have made up that word.
**You will learn that I am the wordy one. I just don't know when to shut up.