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.
Franny Billingsley, in her first novel, takes a combination of witches, small towns, and a handsome stranger to lyrical new depths. Briony Larkin, the reverend’s daughter, is a witch. This book is her testimony, her admittance of guilt. Before she died, her stepmother made Briony promise not to reveal her identity and never to enter the Swamp where her power is strongest. Bound by guilt to always protect her twin sister who is mentally unstable, Briony has spent the last three years reminding herself that she is wicked. This life of isolation, guilt, and silence are challenged with the arrival of Eldric, a handsome young college student, and the return of the Swamp Cough for which there is no cure. In an effort to save her sister, Briony must once again talk to the Old Ones and use what the townspeople call the Second Sight. However, doing so will most certainly reveal her wickedness to everyone.
This book was a refreshing change from the average young adult paranormal genre. Nominated for the National Book Award, it presents an intriguing premise and an unforgettable heroine. What sets this book above others, though, is the writing which is rich in vocabulary and thoughtful in its articulation. I would recommend this book to adults and teens alike.
-- by Mollie H.