Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Binding by Bridget Collins

In the world of The Binding by Bridget Collins, bookbinding is a magical art that one is born with. A binder is a person who takes someone's memories, puts them in book form, and wipes those memories away. If done badly, binding can turn someone into a bit of a zombie. There are also fictional books but the real books in The Binding (those that are filled with memories) are considered bad by most as they're about the terrible memories that people want to forget, often horrific things like being raped.

Taking away bad memories doesn't sound inherently bad, so when I read the book description for The Binding, I was intrigued and hoped to find it a story filled with magic and hope. Instead, the book really focuses on an LGBTQ romance (not what I was expecting, in other words). The magical binding process is actually secondary and there's really nothing positive about it. Instead of learning to live with memories, stopping bad people from doing bad things, and making the world a better place, binding is primarily used to abuse people in this story, particularly to allow one very bad man to continue abusing the girls in his employ.

I was feeling reading-slumpish and nothing at all was grabbing me when I went roaming around the house, grazing on various books to see if anything would hold my attention. The Binding was the only book that really managed to hang onto me and I appreciate it for that. It broke a dark spell. But, while I loved the beginning and the idea of the story, I found that the farther I got into it, the more I was dismayed by the fact that it was filled with darkness without light, terrible people (so many truly awful characters), and pure melodrama. Someone was constantly being hit by waves of nausea or dizziness, vomiting, blacking out. At the beginning, when the main character was recovering from a fever, it made sense to me. But, I really did grow weary of the melodrama, particularly the vomiting. Ew.

I also was irritated by the profusion of incomplete sentences in dialogue. People often do start a sentence and then stop, interrupting themselves or others in mid-thought. But, again, it was a conceit that was overdone to the point that I started to snarl at the characters to finish their %@*$! sentences. Similarly, the binder Emmett is sent to apprentice with, Seredith, is a character I expected to train him in the art of bookbinding. Instead, she gives Emmett busy work and keeps saying she'll get to the real teaching, later. The incomplete sentences in dialogue and the fact that Seredith keeps putting off the training gave the book a fragmented feel that I found annoyed me.

Neither recommended nor not recommended - Disappointing. More an LGBTQ romance than a fantasy and I believe the book requires trigger warnings for rape, abuse, and suicide. I peeked at Goodreads to see what the average rating is because I was curious how other people felt. It has a 4-star rating, so there are clearly plenty of people who enjoyed this book. Since I've found that Goodreads reviews are generally lacking in spoilers, I recommend flipping through a few reviews before making a decision whether or not to read The Binding. While I gave the book a low rating and found myself thinking I probably should have abandoned it, I will say that the ending was absolutely perfect and just what I'd hoped for. So, I'm glad I held out for the ending, even if the book didn't work for me, in general.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Binding from HarperCollins for review. Many thanks!

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  1. Sounds like one I probably would not have finished! How odd that it had a satisfying ending, after what must have been a frustrating read. The idea of erasing people's memories, makes me think of that film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    1. I think by the time I realized it was not going to be what I hoped for I just felt too invested in the book to abandon it. Plus, nothing else was grabbing me. Yes, strange that it had such a satisfying ending after the rest of it being so frustrating. Believe it or not, I haven't seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I noticed someone mentioned it when I glanced across the reviews at Goodreads, so you're not the only one to observe the connection.

  2. Ooh, I'm glad to have a heads up about some of the themes here which I had no idea were included. Nothing I'd necessarily choose to read now that I know about it, thanks!


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