4 and a half really.
Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper is a favorite book of mine, and it's been years and years between that one and Chime. It's almost hard to think of Chime without comparing it. It's also set in a world-that-never-was, this time an England with swamps and Old Ones (a variation on Folk), juxtaposed with motor cars and a new 20th century. I think if you're the kind of person who needs to know exactly where you are in a book, this might drive you crazy. Me, I am perfectly content with it. The presence of the swamp (a major character here, really) made this often feel more like Louisiana than England. But who cares? The main character, Briony, is convinced she is evil. Briony and Corinna (from The Folk Keeper) are an interesting pair -- both prickly and difficult, both compelling narrators, both utterly mistaken about their own natures. But whereas Corinna was desperate for power, Briony is terrified of the power she possesses. And both find romance with handsome young men who see past their prickliness and reach them through, of all things, FUN and friendship. Eldric and Finian definitely have much in common, in the way they look past the strangeness of the their beloveds and say, "hey, come out and let's do something fun." It's a very appealing view of romance, where the angst doesn't have anything to do with the relationship itself, which I find completely refreshing.
Chime is full of intriguing minor characters as well, from Briony's odd "mirror twin" Rose to the Old Ones like Mucky Face, a personified wave. It's a world full of danger, both from the supernatural, which is all around, and from the superstitions of ordinary folk. Yet somehow the characters manage to get out and play a little on their way to enlightenment and catharsis. And gosh, with Billingsley, you never worry over the writing. You just sit back and enjoy.