Oh. My. Gosh. Have y’all been following the Twitter about my trip to NYC? I’ve been *relatively* copacetic since I got here, but wow. It really WAS Planes, Trains and Automobiles! A literal train wreck, a broken plane, a pothole in a runway, a crazy guy on a light pole in Times Square, and my inability to tell down from up where block numbers are concerned has made this the CRAZIEST transportation adventure evah.
More about that soon. First I have to tell you about this CRAZY great book I read while I was sitting in the airport forever and a day.
by Frannie Billingsley
The back of the book says: 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.
What I say: I loved this book. I loved the voice, and I really loved the main character, Briony. The world is historical (turn of the 20th century) but with magic, only it’s a gentle, superstitious sort of magic. No wands or wizards, but folktale creatures and fairy tale witches.
There is so much more going on here than just the romance (emphasized by the summary). There’s a ton of mystery in Briony’s life. She blames herself for all her family’s hardships, including her sister’s mental simplicity, her stepmother’s death, a fire and a flood. Early on, her self-loathing and guilt was just a little hard for me, but she had just enough spark of life and humor to make me really root for her, and it was so clear that there was a lot more to this story than Briony was able to see. (She is an unreliable narrator, and Billingsley very skillfully lets you sense that from the get go.) I desperately wanted to read on to see (a) what REALLY happened and (b) to see this girl come into her own.
It helped that Briony was so witty and clever. Her turns of phrase and creative metaphor are delightful, and her interactions with Eldric sparkle. (LOVED Eldric!) Frankly, I just loved the way Billingsley told this story and in particular how it spun out. It was like the story Briony believed about herself was an intricate origami that had to unfold little by little as the book when on until we could see the truth.
There’s magic and a genuine sense of mystery and jeopardy, a wonderful and satisfying romance, and an utterly engaging heroine.
I will say that this is a book for people who don’t like everything explained to them up front. The world in particular is not spelled out, and you have to put the pieces together for yourself. I found this really rewarding, and I highly recommend that you at least check out the first few chapters of this book and see if it doesn’t grab you, too.
What else are the Bookanistas talking about this week? Check it out.
Christine Fonseca interviews YA Fiction for Dummies author Deborah Halverson – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie author Matt Blackstone