Book Review: The Chimes by Anna Smaill

About the book

  Title: The Chimes
  Author: Anna Smaill
  Edition: Net Galley E-Book
  Published: Hachette Australia, February 10th 2015
  Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Standalone
  My Rating: 3/5
  Challenge(s): COYER, Dive into Diversity
  Goodreads | The Book Depository | Amazon
Blurb: A mind-expanding literary debut composed of memory, music and imagination. A boy stands on the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain. No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment. No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden. No parents - just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them. The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air. Welcome to the world of The Chimes. Here, life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. The past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy. But slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember. He emerges from sleep each morning with a pricking feeling, and sense there is something he urgently has to do. In the city Simon meets Lucien, who has a gift for hearing, some secrets of his own, and a theory about the danger lurking in Simon's past. A stunning debut composed of memory, music, love and freedom, The Chimes pulls you into a world that captivates, enthrals and inspires.


I previously mentioned this book in a Stacking the Shelve book haul, and talked a bit why I picked it off Net Galley. Summarising that, I picked it because it was unlike any other fantasy I've heard of before. A reimagined London with memory and word replaced by music. It's also written by a debut author, Anna Smaill. What's not to get excited about? Here are my thoughts.

The Good

A huge asset to this novel was the writing. Anna Smaill has utterly beautiful writing. The imagery, metaphor, synesthesia (the list goes on); it really enraptured all of my senses whilst reading. If you are someone who plays a musical instrument or has great passion for music you will love the writing that much more. She uses musical dynamics to describe how people move and talk or how things look - it's truly amazing and unlike anything I've read before. Here are some snippets from the book that give a sense of what her writing and the Chimes universe is like.
"I hear oysters, and pasties. I hear melted four cheeses on granary loaf with pickle. I hear fox whelp apples by the bag, cider by the gallon."
"The trees are budding their new leaves and a thought comes into my head. They have a kind of rhythm in their upright trunks and their branches that start thick and then divide and get narrower and lighter and faster till they quiver in the air like breath past a clarinet reed. That is a rhythm you cans, not hear. Perhaps music happens elsewhere than in ears."
The last 20% of the book was were everything picked up and came together. There were a couple of plot twists I definitely did not see coming, as well as an unexpected romance that was very well done - no insta-love thank god.

I definitely feel as though this book could have sequel, without giving anything away, I would be very interested in finding out what happens next...

The Not So Good

The book had a very bleak and hopeless mood, right of the bat and carried nearly all the way through. As it said in the synopsis, the world is a place where no memories can be formed, so every day essentially feels exactly the same. I definitely felt this whilst reading the book but it was probably a bit too real for me as I struggled a bit through the first 40%. It just felt too monotonous and repetitive. As I mentioned above I was eventually rewarded but it took a bit too long to get there.

The main issue I had with this book was connecting with the characters and being immersed in the plot. I found myself more enraptured by the words itself then the actual story line so at times I struggled to pick the book up again or would have completely forgotten what had happened the last time I read it. I was very unsure about how I felt towards Lucien (one of the main characters). I kept on flitting back and forth between "oh so he's a good guy" and "wait no I think he's bad" and "okay nope he's good". I couldn't figure him out and it threw me off a bit. I didn't know whether I should be suspicious of him or trusting and probably struggled with accepting his character the most.

So Why Three Stars? 

Though I had trouble relating to the characters and the earlier events of the book felt a bit repetitive, the plot definitely picked up towards the end, the premise of the book is truly one of a kind and the writing was beautiful!

My Recommendation 

I would recommend this book to those with a musical background, you will definitely get a kick out of Smaill's descriptiveness, as well as those looking for a unique and delicate fantasy that still incorporates romance and a bit of action. This book is due to be released today (10th of February 2015) so be sure to pick it up if it sounds like something you'd enjoy. 

Let's Discuss!

Do you play any musical instruments? What are some other fictional works (books or movies) you would recommend to music lovers? I would definitely put The Chimes on that list! 

Disclaimer: This book was received for free via Net Galley, but this does not affect my opinion in any way and my review is honest as always. 


  1. I love stories that rely on music to get some of the point across. I used to play the piano, the trumpet and the flute... Now, I play the piano a little bit, but I'm not at all good at it anymore :(
    I think I might try this, knowing in advance that it's bleak and hopeless in the beginning might help me feel a little better about it. Great review, Shanny!

  2. I used to play the piano at school, but that was almost a lifetime ago. I actually like the premise of this one, anything that heavily features music is usually a winner for me. The first half sounds incredibly slow though, I probably would have given up before getting to the good bits. Lovely review Shan, might check this out soon <3

  3. Very intriguing review! I'd like to check this book out myself!

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    Check the post on my blog for details

    aeriko001 @ The Reading Armchair

  4. Book, and a musical one... I want it nowwww!!! Going to add it in my TBR pile!! It looks to amazing and unique!! Haven't read any book like it before!!
    Haniya |