The Binding by Bridget Collins
After spending some more time with the second and third books of The Daevabad Trilogy, about which I wrote in my last review here, I needed some time to readjust. That series hooked me and it felt hard to pick up something, fearing it might disappoint. I have not reviewed the second and third books as I don’t want to spoil them for you, in case you decide to read the trilogy.
This month’s novel:
“The Binding” is an adult fantasy novel, written by Bridget Collins. I read somewhere that this was her debut with adult fantasy, as she’s been writing young adult fiction before. I would say it was quite a successful debut.
The plot is what caught my attention: a world where people’s memories are bound into books. Cool, right? Well, of course, there’s a catch. You lose those memories completely, so that poses the question: aren’t you actually giving up and losing a part of yourself?
The book starts with Emmett, a young man from a farmer family, who is not doing so well. He is in poor health and can no longer help around at the farm. He receives an invitation to become a bookbinder’s apprentice and his family urges him to go.
We then are slowly…painfully slowly to my taste, introduced to the bookbinding world through the old bookbinder and her mysterious house.
We find out that Emmett has the gift of binding, which is the reason for his sickness, but it will pass as he gets accustomed to binding.
At one point, a weird scene takes place, where another character makes a brief appearance, Lucian Darney. He seems to make quite an impression on Emmett, as the latter falls ill again.
Later on, the bookbinder passes away and her son takes Emmett as an apprentice in the big city. However, here, bookbinding is a full business and Emmett finds himself disapproving of the way books, memories, and people are treated as currency. He is also sent to do a binding himself, to the house of…you guessed it, Lucian Darnay.
HUGE SPOILER ALERT! (highlight the ‘invisible’ text below to read through the spoiler 😛 )
There he finds a book with his name on it and decides to burn it. Burning a book makes the memories come back. As the book burns, the next part of “The Binding” starts, showing us Emmett’s memories. And yes, Lucian Darnay was a big part of those memories. I won’t get into more of the specifics, except to tell you that Lucian had also chosen to bind himself.
After getting the whole backstory from Emmett, in the third part of the book, we are now reading from Lucian’s perspective, get to know him and his awful father better as well as the terrible society he lives in.
The book ends abruptly, with the two young men running away from people chasing them.
Did I like it?
Overall, I did. But still, what caught me and kept me going was the idea of a world in which people would bind their memories. The first part was a bit murky and slow, but it mirrored Emmett’s bound/clouded thoughts at the time, so it made sense.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second part, which seemed to be a completely different story. The last part felt again a bit dragged, and with the abrupt end, I felt like I needed more. More of the young men’s story together perhaps. Oh yes, if it wasn’t already apparent, this story has LGBTQ characters.
So, I would say I give this book 4/5 stars. The idea behind it was amazing, it wasn’t a bad read at all and if you like books about books, fantasy with a bit of romance, and a satire to cynical society, you should read it.