Author: Frannie Billingsley
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 03/17/11
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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.
Plot: 3.5 Stars
This story had a lot of potential: Briony being one of very few to see the Old Ones in the swamp, causing her to think she's a witch, the spread of the swamp cough because the swamp was being drained. But the lack of action in the story left a lot of things underdeveloped. Briony mentions a number of Old Ones throughout the novel. Only a few are described in any detail, and only one or two actually make an appearance. There was also a lot of dwelling in the past on the part of Briony. She has flashbacks of the fire and the flood that took place at their house, and then brings them up multiple times throughout the novel. Even without the flashbacks, time moved very oddly within this novel. There are points in which a week is spread over a couple chapters, and then it would jump a few months forward. The story was enjoyable, if a bit confusing at times, but I just feel like there were some elements that could've been expanded on to make it better.
Pace: 3 Stars
This novel was a very slow read for me until around the last five chapters. I will admit, that I got the flu in the middle of reading this novel and took about a week off (from reading in general), but before and after being sick, I still had issues with the pace. I believe part of my issue was the way the characters talked. It took a number of chapters before I was comfortable understanding the dialogue and narration. There also seemed to be a lack of action in numberous parts of the book. There was a lot of talking and thinking and flashbacks, but not as much going on in the present. My biggest problem with the pacing was that after a story that took its time to unravel, the ending seemed very rushed and disjointed, and left me a bit confused.
Characters: 3.5 Stars
Briony was a very strange character. I often had trouble understanding her internal dialogue because she talked in circles and repeated herself. She believed she was a witch and could see the Old Ones in the swamp. Her twin sister, Rose, was the complete opposite of Briony, but I feel like her character wasn't included enough in the story. Briony often talked about Rose and what she didn't like, but Rose herself wasn't in that many scenes. Eldric was a very interesting character. He seemed to understand Briony's illogical way of talking and acting, and the two of them started a "Bad Boy Fraternity" together. A number of the adult characters seemed a bit removed from the story, especially Briony and Rose's father. Their stepmother, on the other hand, is only mentioned in the flashbacks due to her passing, and it seems like Briony dwell on these scenes and repeats a lot of her exchanges with her stepmother for the reader.
Cover: 3.5 Stars
My favorite part of this cover is the tree branches draped across the cover model. They look like hands that are trying to grab her, which really resonates with the story. They also give the cover a darker, mysterious feel. Across the bottom, there are also a trail of what might be stars or glitter that makes me think of magic. The cover model was a good choice for Briony, although the necklace she is wearing is not relevant to the story. Normally, I wouldn't comment on clothing or accessory choices for a cover model, but my eye is drawn immediately to the necklace which leads me to think it's important. So it's a tiny letdown when something like that doesn't come into play. The monochromatic browns and tans of the cover really fit the mood of the book, but the sky blue title contrasts with the brown a bit too much.
Overall: 3.5 Stars
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel from Authors on the Web.