This was a thoroughly bewitching book. I really liked it. It is definitely not what I expected. There are some twists and turns and gotcha moments that really kept the story moving along.
Briony Larkin is the protagonist and narrator of her story. She believes she is a witch and we open with her pleading her guilt before the court. But then she tells us her story from the beginning and it begins with a boy-man named Eldric.
The prose is beautiful and lyrical, which is really funny since Briony doesn't like poetry and thinks she's terrible at it. We gain glimpses into her past and her family. She loves her stepmother and has nothing but praise for her but we as the audience know or at least feel differently. All is not what it seems. Why does she feel she's a witch? And what time period is she living in? It took me almost til the middle of the book before I was able to pin it down, but that's one of the beauties of this book. It's a totally surreal setting. She almost takes us in and out of time, even though there's no time travel. Supernatural beings exist alongside science, progress, and technology. The author was able to combine all very flawlessly.
But Briony was hard to listen to. She droned on and on about how horrible she was and why she deserved to be punished and unloved, on and on about her guilt. Though we never understand until the very end what's going on. So her voice became a bit tedious by the end, especially since we knew all was not what it seemed in her own head. I'm sure that was part of the point, though, to make us feel like her friends and family and not being able to get through to her until the end.
It's also not your typical boy saves damsel in distress. They saved each other and I loved that!
I only have one other complaint...the whole premise of the book/its world is that witches are inherently evil. This is a fantasy book and I get that but so many people were killed during the inquisition and witch trials throughout history that I get my hackles raised when these stories surface about witches. These stories play down that nasty part of history when they say witches actually existed and they were, of course, evil and thus deserved to die...
I will end on a happy note with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"I think about the inevitability of death, and whether it's not that very inevitability that inspires us to take photographs and make scarpbooks and tell stories. That that's how we humans find our way to immortality...That's how we find our way toward meaning. Meaning. If you're going to die, you want to find meaning in your life. You want to connect the dots." (p. 351)