‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins feels very much like a cross between historical-fiction and fantasy. The book was Waterstone’s ‘Book of The Month’ in January and currently has an average rating of 3.9 on Goodreads. The story follows Emmett Farmer, a son of a poor, you guessed it, farmer and his journey to becoming a Binder, someone who has the ability of turning memories into books and therefore wiping that person’s memory also.
Truthfully, I’m not sure how to write this review as I feel like this would be a great book to jump into without knowing a lot about it. It’s not only that which makes writing this review difficult – this book touched me in a way that is hard to put into words, and I will endeavour to try but I’m not sure I will succeed.
“Books want to burn,’ he says. ‘They go up like that because – they’re unstable, memories don’t want to stay…”
This book wrecked me emotionally, Bridget Collins literally just stamped all over my heart and I’m saying thank you. This is perhaps one of the most touching stories I’ve read in a long time, and I know the characters and their relationships are going to stay with me. It’s definitely a book I’ll eagerly await to reread, or maybe a book I’ll pick up to reread certain parts and chapters just so I can catch a glimmer of what I felt the first time I read this.
Emmett Farmer, our main character, is very much a lost character for part one of this novel. He’s been ill for a very long time and can’t do the labour intensive farmwork he used to do, but he wants to be able to do it for his family – and there in lies part of his heartbreak. He’s quite a curious character and eager to learn, as we learn in part one as even though books are revered by his family he is drawn to them in a way he can’t explain. As part one progresses he finds himself as the apprentice to a bookbinder and learns her craft, not only is he a good student it’s obvious he’s a character who deeply cares about other’s. He truly loves Seradith, and that can be seen through his actions to make sure she’s okay. He’s a character you can’t help but like, and one that grows on you as the novel progresses.
Lucian, our other main character whose introduced later, is a great character to read. He’s quite misunderstood for quite a lot of the book and it’s only towards the end of part two and into part three do you begin to understand him. In some ways, he reminded me of Draco Malfoy with his home life and his desperation to please his father, and in other ways not so much. He is a fun character when the reader gets to glimpse who he really is, and whilst he is the character who is the most likely to give some comedic relief in the story, Collins does this without sacrificing his struggles or story.
The romance in this book is heartbreaking and incredibly moving. It’s a true star-crossed lovers romance that will stay with you. It’s also a LGBT+ romance which I think fantasy novels often neglect, so that was nice to read. I don’t want to say more about it because it’s hard to capture the beauty of it with words, but please trust me when I say it’s everything you would want to read.
The villains, if you can call them ‘villains’ as they felt too real to be ‘storybook’ villains – they were people you could easily encounter in our world and not know something evil lay beneath the surface; and I supposed was the whole point. None of them had some evil plan to keep the lovers apart, nor when any of them plotting something evil, they were just bad people in Emmett and Lucian’s lives and that was refreshing to read in a fantasy; in fantasies the villains are often ones with complex evil plans, but not here. They were also excellently written and will invoke some kind of anger within you.
The world building in this excellent, and it’s a world I never wanted to leave. Collins takes a large portion of part one of this novel building the world around Emmett and we learn so much about him and his family through it. Not only this, we learn a lot about the binder’s trade – the good and the bad, and that is fully explored through our characters. It’s a detailed landscape Collins has created, and I was left wanting to know more about it.
Part One of this book is a little slow if you don’t like extensive world-building, and you may find that part drags if you’re not into that kind of thing. I didn’t mind it as I enjoy extensive world-building, and I wanted to know more about the process of book binding that’s explored in part one. However, the book really hits it stride in part two and that’s the part where you will not be able to put this down for anything, not even a good cup of tea.
I’m not sure what to say about this book other than a few times in your life a book will come along that will absolutely grip you, and you’ll be left wondering how anything else could ever compare. This is the first book I’ve read in quite a few years that will do that to you. Bridget Collins has written a spellbinding story, that is sure to be remembered in reader’s minds for decades to come.
I believe this is storytelling at it’s finest, and I will be talking about this book for months and years to come. I have already preordered Bridget Collin’s next book because of how much I loved this one.
This was a great pick by Waterstones and I’m excited to see what else they have in store for their readers after this.