Book Review: The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Whilst I was on my work placement for uni I wasn’t able to read a lot, but compensated by visiting the local bookstore on my lunch breaks and buying up on all the books I wanted to read over my school break (well not all, but a few). On one of these trips I was lucky enough to find a copy of a book I had been anticipating way before it was released- The Chimes by Anna Smaill. I read it during my cold morning bus trips and now here is a short review, for you.

As always, I consider my reviews pretty spoiler-free, but my comments do go a little further into characters/general plot than a blurb would, so proceed with a little caution.

The Chimes – Anna Smaill (2016)



A dystopian novel that depicts a world where music is everything, even a way to control memory. The written word has been banned and books as we know it burned–yet our main characters have found a way to bring memory back.


“How without mercy and without blame we have all of us been. And how careless to have misplaced so much

“…after a while her mood flares. She lights her words with it and flicks them at me.”

What I liked:

  • The Plot:  A unique and refreshing take on dystopia. It was consistently engaging and felt as though all the details fit together really nicely. I could tell that a lot of work had gone into the world building, as it really shine through in the language, laws and characters in the novel
  • Characters: Despite the fact that there is not a lot of character development in this novel, I felt the voice of each character was handled really well. Their thoughts and feelings are what really helped them to become so likeable and interesting to me. What we do learn about the characters, we learn through their past memories, which is pretty closely intertwined with explaining the world. Each time we learn something, the story becomes clearer and clearer, encouraging the reader to learn more.

  • Themes: I feel like this is a book that warrants the time and energy needed to sit down and analyse all the messages and themes evoked in the writing. The major theme of the novel, for me, was humanity, and the role that friendship, memories, agency, harmony and discord all play in it.
  • Writing style: I felt that the author set out to achieve particular aims with her writing and that she hit them spot on. Backed by extensive research and world building, the story moves at a steady pace and there’s a great sense of structure as the Chimes are always in the background of the story. The writing is really what makes this book work; it’s poetic and beautiful and also calm and lamenting.

What I didn’t really like:

  • Difficult start: Due to the point at which this book starts off, I felt that the first 50-60 pages or so were a bit difficult to read, as all the details the main character perceives are murky, and overall not too much was happening.
    This does however, allow the reader time to become immersed into this universe and slowly come to grips with the language and circumstances surrounding our main character. We experience things as he does, which is a bit tricky at first. However, by page 100 or so I felt that the story had kicked off and the pieces were starting to fall into place.
  • Characters: Due to the nature of the story, a lot of the characters were a bit
    superfluous and didn’t have a whole lot of depth. As a reader, we could only really perceive these characters as the main character does, which is a limited perspective.

Concluding comments:

I thought the writing was beautiful and skilful in the way it described the world and characters. Its also impressive how the author was able to convey the muddiness of memory loss and amnesia. The world was unique, yet immediately engaging.

Rating: ★★★★✩



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