By: Franny Billingsley
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: March 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 2011
Briony has issues. She is one facet of the identical twins who live in Swampsea. Her sister’s name is Rose. She, too, is a beautiful porcelain girl just like Briony but, unfortunately, the mind of Rose no longer works correctly. A long time ago Rose went a bit crazy and can no longer think well and screams constantly. Briony’s Stepmother is now gone, but before she left the earth she asked Briony to always take care of her sister, no matter what. Briony has held that commitment…but not without pain.
Briony wants nothing more than to get out of Swampsea and have a life. She longs for the fast-paced world of London - the restaurants, the theatre district, the running water - Briony wants the freedom to go where she can go and do what she wants to do, instead of being stuck in a broken down rectory with her father, the clergyman, who barely notices that she and her sister are alive.
Briony has become cold. She can see no hope for her future, and can barely live with the fact that part of her ‘gift’ was the reason her Stepmother now lies in a grave, and why her sister is barely human anymore. But if she tells anyone her secret in Swampsea, she will swing from the hangman’s noose. After all, the punishment would be fair, considering Briony is a witch.
One day, a young man of beauty, grace, and charm - with a fire that burns inside of his soul - arrives in Swampsea. His name is Eldric, and he is what his father refers to as a ‘bad boy.’ Eldric has been expelled from the University in London for his joking ways, and must now live in the rectory and finish his studies. Eldric is an amazing boy and represents the package of freedom and desire that Briony longs for. Yet, she can never leave Swampsea; she must keep her promise to her Stepmother while fighting the demons that surround their small town.
When Rose goes missing, the adventure begins for Eldric and Briony. Eldric is the one person on earth who will not believe that Briony has a bad bone in her body - yet her secret - her one ‘deadly sin’ could destroy them all.
This amazing novel introduces a world where the Dark Muse lives, who goes after Eldric to try and enchant him with her evil ways. Swampsea is also the home of the Boggy Mun, who released a disease into the human world that Briony desperately needs to stop. Included in this witch-‘y’ world are The Horrors, the Old Ones who whisper, the Reed Spirits, and more, who join together as Briony tries desperately to escape the past and avert anything bad from happening in the future.
Harkening back to the time of the Salem Witch trials, in a way, this wonderful author has created a story that will spark the imaginations of young adult readers everywhere (not to mention adults who are extremely interested in the fantasy realm). The Chime Child is also there - with one foot in the human world and one in the kingdom of the Old Ones - making the final decision between life and the Hangman’s Square. Every scene is a new adventure, and the romance that is woven throughout is as beautiful as it is slightly sinister.
Quill Says: A book of pure ‘magic’ that will make the reader wish they could close their eyes and head to Swampsea to get a first-hand look at these amazing and unforgettable characters. I smell sequel!