About the Book:
If everything in your life was based on a lie would you risk it all to tell the truth?
At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters. Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before. Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…
The Binding by Bridget Collins was a standout release for me and as is the natural order of things, this second adult release from Bridget Collins was always going to have a heavy amount of expectation attached to it. The similarity between these two novels stops at the gorgeously coordinated covers. The Betrayals is a very different read to The Binding, another highly imaginative and uniquely crafted story, yes, but not quite as easy to get wrapped up in – for me, at least.
Everything within The Betrayals is a little bit on the obscure side. The era is not disclosed (I couldn’t even get a bead on it, although the publisher’s website has it listed as historical fiction), the location is not identified (although by deduction I’m guessing ‘somewhere in France’ but this is not confirmed anywhere in the novel), and despite my best intentions, I just still, after finishing, have no idea what the Grand Jeu even was; perhaps I am suffering from a severe lack of imagination, I don’t know, but I just couldn’t envisage what it actually was. I couldn’t see how it was performed, or played out, or even written. In this particular aspect, I think there was possibly a crossover with the sort of themes you see popping up in YA fiction, but in this case, targeted specifically to adults. The author mentions in her author note that her grand jeu was inspired by another novel containing a game such as this; I haven’t read, much less heard of that novel, so in terms of visualisation, that did nothing to help me. While these factors didn’t give me any reason to abandon the novel, they did lead me to taking much longer than normal to get through it. It was like each of these unknown factors presented a barrier to get through. I really do like to know the when and where of what I’m reading, and in truth, perhaps this novel should have been billed as fantasy rather than historical fiction, for the ‘game’ does seem to fall into that realm of storytelling.
Anyway, moving on from all that. I did actually still enjoy the novel overall. This is entirely owing to the way in which Bridget Collins writes. She crafts her characters with depth and presents all aspects of them with authenticity: their flaws, their strengths, their morals, their talents. Likewise, her story plays out with just the right amount of tension, intrigue, and mystery, clues laid down for the reader at key points, some things taking their time to be revealed, others coming swiftly and with shock for the reader. In terms of quality of writing, you can’t fault her. She knows how to tell an unconventional love story, and also knows how to take it to the next level, making her story, and the essence of it, about so much more than the relationship between the key players. I think that if readers of The Binding go into this with adjusted expectations, they should be able to enjoy it in its own right. Bear in mind that it’s an entirely different sort of story, and think more along the lines of fantasy than historical magical realism, and you should find it to be enjoyable and intriguing. I look forward to seeing where Bridget Collins takes us next.
About the Author:
Bridget Collins trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after reading English at King’s College, Cambridge. She is the author of seven acclaimed books for young adults and has had two plays produced, one at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Betrayals is her second adult novel.
Published by HarperCollins – GB
Released 12th November 2020