Published by Speak on Mar 17, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA
Format: ARC from Gift
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
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 story had both ups and down. I was confused for the first half as I tried to understand it, but I was entranced by the lyrical feel so I stuck to it, and was rewarded with a sweet and warming ending.
This book felt like a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy with an older style of speech, and a reality where magic was common. The village and villagers felt like something out of an English story set in the 1800s where superstitions ruled the day, but with a slight twist to make those fears reasonable as magic was very present, real and dangerous.
I found Briony to be a very pitiable character. She’s obviously had a tough life, but her self-hatred seemed a little too focused. She holds herself responsible for a number of disasters, even when the evidence seems a little flimsy. Her self-assessment of herself is sad to witness, but also has a ring of truth to it, because in reality, aren’t most people too hard on themselves?
The writing style is very lyrical feeling. I had a hard time getting into the story, and even at page 100 still left very lost, but it was the writing that kept me going. I knew something had to come out of it as I had seen lots of good reviews prior to reading, and I wanted to find the reason for those reviews. I did find the reason in the later third of the book. Suddenly the story started coming together in a sweet and heart melting way. I absolutely adored it, and it made the whole book worth reading.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, although if I could have just read the last third and been able to understand it without the first part of the book, I would have. The main draw of the book was the lyrical prose, which had a dreamy magical feel. This isn’t a book you can fly through, but it is a book that is worth the work to read.