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.
Briony hates herself. She caused a great wind to come and knock her twin, Rose, off of her swing and hit her head on a rock. Now her twin is not quite right in the head at all times. Then she caused a great wave to come and knock her stepmother over which caused a spinal injury. She created fire and burned down the library in their house. She’s not a good person but it’s all because she’s a witch. Her stepmother told her that and because witches are hanged Briony can never ever tell anyone what she is.
When the story opens it is to show us that Briony and her family are waiting for a ship to come to port that holds the son of a local man. He will be staying at Briony and her family’s home and Briony’s not happy about it at all. But when Eldric arrives she finds a friend. She can’t let down her mask and show Eldric who she truly is but they have great fun together with their Bad Boy club, boxing lessons and their swamp excursions.
Briony’s not supposed to go into the swamp because according to her stepmother bad things happen. But when she goes to talk to the Boggy Mun she discovers that he’s the one causing the people of the village to die of the swamp cough. He’s punishing them because they are taking the water from the swamp in order to put in a railroad. Briony makes a deal with the Boggy Mun but in order to save her sister Rose and the other citizens of the village she must reveal herself as a witch.
This is a fantasy book that really had a great blend of lightness and humor along side the darker more evil side of the spirits, the Old Ones, and the havoc they can create. There are Old Ones walking around that others are unaware of but the ones in the swamp are the most volatile. There’s the Boggy Mun, Mucky Face the Dead Hand and many other spirits that were created specifically for this story. They were pretty intense at times and you never knew what they were going to be up to next.
The story is really about Briony and the information about her witchiness that her stepmother pushed on her and told her not to tell anyone. You take an innocent girl and foist horrible ideas on her and her memories start to twist, fade and disappear. She begins to wonder what is reality and what is fantasy. It was quite clever to create a fantasy book that has a girl in it that doesn’t know what is reality and what is fantasy…to a point.
Then there’s Eldric who is 4 years older than Briony but is a fantastic friend. Though she doesn’t allow herself to think of Eldric with feelings (because according to her she can’t feel – she can only think about feelings because she’s not a normal girl) she knows that she wants him in her life – even if she can’t completely admit that to herself. Their friendship and the intensity of their connection really came to life in the story
I liked the book but there were some things in the book that I really thought could have been left out. Briony had so many issues going in her life (there’s a lot going on in the book) that adding a separate love interest for Eldric really rubbed me the wrong way. I would have preferred (which is something Rose is always saying: she “prefer to” do something or “prefers not to” do something) to not have that added to the story but since I’m not the author…I guess it wasn’t up to me! lol Also, at the end of the book Eldric does something that I think was completely out of character and it really bothered me that the author felt the need to put that in. I just couldn’t figure out why the author would go there…and I still haven’t figured it out.
Overall I liked the book and would read something by Ms. Billingsley again.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5