I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley, but was putting off reading it. No single reason, just got busy, was finishing other books, and totally forgot I had it on my Kindle. But it started gaining some interest, I saw it around bookshops, and decided to give it a go right after New Years. I could not put this book down! I’ve been recommending “The Binding” left, right, and centre since I finished it. It was definitely a great read to start my 2020 with.
Having finished this book a couple of weeks ago, I had time to digest it properly, think about it, and discuss it with my friends. It’s a story that just keeps on giving. So here’s my review of an incredible fantasy book that everyone should read! Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for this eARC.
Publication date: January 10th, 2019
Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
Number of Pages: 448
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (5 stars)
“Which was worse? To feel nothing, or to grieve for something you no longer remembered?
Synopsis (taken from Goodreads): Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories. Once their stories have been told and are bound between the pages of a book, the slate is wiped clean and their memories lose the power to hurt or haunt them. After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade.
( I had to cut a bit of the blurb out, as I believe it to be spoiler-y.)
Overall Impression: It was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. The writing was incredibly gripping and suited the story perfectly. The book explores memory loss, but what sets it apart from other similar novels, is that it’s a voluntary affair and getting “bound” presents societal implications.
“The Binding” does not present incredible world building or crazy magic everywhere. It is subtle, deep, and focuses on character development and their psychology. I appreciate both types of books equally and if they’re done well, they will be an incredible read. Personally, I don’t think this book lacked anything and Bridget Collins did an incredible job twisting all the threads together while creating complex characters.
The book is peppered with folklore, historical fiction, and romance. And even though I’m not big on romance in books, this was done masterfully.
Likes: I really enjoyed that the book consisted of three “books” or parts. First one presents Emmett’s perspective of events. The second one takes place before Emmett’s illness, builds the characters and their growth, as well as suspense. The final book presents a totally different point of view and we see the story from Lucian’s perspective, which feels like a breath of fresh air. This way of presenting the narrative really benefited the story, and built the plot up in all the right ways.
Furthermore, I was engrossed by the story. The book presents quite a lot of questions about the world we’re in and the people we meet in the first chapter. The not knowing makes you want to read even faster to figure out what’s going on. How do people get bound? Why do they do it? What was Emmett’s illness? And so on.
Collin’s writing style is also captivating. It’s easy to read, but still weaves a beautiful story with intricate nuances.
Dislikes: The only critique that I have is that I wish the art of bookbinding was discussed more. As it is a voluntary act to rid oneself of shameful or unwanted memories, it has a lot of social connotations and implications on the bound person’s life. It would have been interesting to have a few more bindings take place in the story and have a more in-depth description of them.
In Conclusion: A magical story that grips the reader from the first page. If you’re looking for fantasy peppered with a bit of mystery and magic, with cleverly written romance, and characters that just keep on giving, this book is for you!
While writing this, I realised that my book reviews don’t focus on plot or story as much, and I don’t talk about the characters and their fates. I really don’t want to give anything away or spoil the book for first time readers. Revealing too much of the plot or the little details gives way for figuring out the twists really fast and clearing away the secrecy.
I tend to never read book reviews before I finish the whole book. Some people tend to give away way too much in their reviews, thus ruining the reading experience, in my opinion.
What are you reading at the moment? Have you come across “The Binding” yet? What did you think?