I received an eARC from The Borough Press, HarperCollins UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Release date : 10/1/2019 UK
16th April 2019 USA (William Morrow)
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 47
(see breakdown below)
Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.
For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.
But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.
NOTE: This book is being advertised as Bridget Collins’ first foray into the Adult Fantasy as opposed to her well known YA fiction. I think this book would be a very welcome and comfortable read for the YA market if you keep in mind these possible Content warnings.
Content Warnings: If you are sensitive to the inclusion of topics such as discussion but not description of sexual assault, potential inability to give consent, consent under duress, or scenes including puppy murder, suicide. this may not be the book for you.
Oh this is a hard one to review without spoilers but I will try my best. This book is part magical realism, part literary fiction and part romance, all told in the most interesting fashion. It is beautifully written, it is lyrical without being flowery and just moves you along with the story.
The book is split into three distinct parts with the first two from Emmett Farmer’s point of view and the third part sweeping us off to the view of another player in the story. Each part seems to have its own pacing and even setting and story that weaves together to make a whole and this is one aspect that keeps this book interesting.
The first section while being the heaviest on the fantasy aspects was slow paced and slightly long winded in my point of view. It is this section, that follows the blurb description, we learn a little about the process of binding and we develop a sense of Emmett as a character. For me while this section while magical just seemed to drag giving me huge amounts of information on mundane aspects while also not giving me the same level not nearly enough on all those fantasy aspects I wanted. It contained one of my most hated troupes which is when all the lead characters problems could be solved if the characters involved within it would just talk to each other!!!! But the magic of the books and the characters of both Emmett and Seredith rescue it, they are just fantastic and i loved reading about them and their craft.
The second section pertains to the memories contained in Emmett’s book, this is a switch in pace and tone, it is a focus on Emmett’s life before his apprenticeship, it is where the focus shifts to a more historical fiction with a splash of romance that is sweet and genuine in feeling. We gain a further set of characters in Emmett’s life that really do feel established. Like Seredith, you get the feel that they have their own long and complicated backstories that if you had a million more pages you would love to explore. This was actually by far my favourite section, which was a nice surprise as I am not a reader of historical fiction.
The final section, switches perspective to a lead player in Emmett’s life. To avoid spoilers I will not mention why or how they know Emmett but their perspective chronicles the aftermath of Emmett receiving his book. This section contains ramps up the pace, which I occasionally found a bit too fast, skipping over important pieces of information to find a resolution, which was slightly disappointing. The ending however, was great. It both had a feeling of being open ended that anything could happen but also was a nice resolution for the story line. While we may have been rushed to get there it as still satisfying.
The only qualms I had is I actually wanted more from certain side characters, they would have interesting hints and tidbits of information about their back stories but we never got to explore them fully. I also wanted more of the binding process and of the binderies contained in the book, the dark side of the bindings was so interesting and I would have loved to have gotten darker and read more on that. However, with that said I loved this book. I loved that even though it was not the full force fantasy I expected, it managed to sweep me into the historical and romantic aspects. Also nice to see some LGBT rep. It is so difficult to talk about what I loved, as all of them would give away big spoilers for some just fantastic moments in the book. All I can say is it really did deliver a magical read just not the magic I expected!
Ending – 9
Style and pace of writing – 7
Characters – 8
Atmosphere and worldbuilding -7
Plot – 7
Enjoyment – 9
NOTE2: I preordered this book almost immediately after starting and I happened to get the Waterstones Exclusive Signed copy with the most beautiful purple sprayed pages, which arrived early! The attention to detail in the binding of this novel is so perfect, and complements those aspects of the story perfectly. I will post images on my Instagram for you to check out as it really is extra special!