Set against a landscape that is part Victorian gothic, part medieval outlier and yet strikingly modern, The Binding slowly unravels a mystery surrounding Emmett Farmer, a farm labourer whose life is irrevocably altered when he receives a cryptic summons, pressing him into service as an apprentice to a Bookbinder. It is an invitation he is both drawn to and desperate to run from.
For a Bookbinder’s trade is like no other.
In the house set deep in the marshes, Emmett learns the skills to make exquisitely beautiful volumes, every one as unique as the last and each holding a dark and peculiar secret: a person’s most unconscionable memories. And to Emmett, they whisper in the darkness. Then one day he discovers a book with his own name on it and is forced to choose between forgetting and the dreadful, tantalising promise of remembrance.
Conjuring a magic all of its own, The Binding is a richly imagined story of boundary-defying desire and prejudice wrapped in layers of enchantment, enigma and stunningly evoked detail. Peopled by fully-fledged characters that live and breathe from the book’s pages, it is a novel to fall in love with.
Would you have your memories taken away? No matter how horrifying or how happy they were, would you willingly for money or peace of mind, let someone take select memories away?
Set in a world where a person’s memories can be taken and put into a book (the memories are bound), The Binding is a beautiful love story underpinned by the values of conservative society and a fantasy world of binding memories away from a person. Emmet Farmer is sent to become an apprentice to a mysterious binder who lives in the middle of nowhere, and it doesn’t take long for Emmet’s past and present to combine for a fascinating and moving journey of discovery and love.
I love, love, looooved this book. Emphasis on all of that. When I closed the book, my heart was swelling with such happiness and love I’m so grateful for. I will truly cherish this book for years to come. This contains one of the best love stories I have ever read. It’s something akin to Romeo & Juliet or Pride and Prejudice due to the time setting and the way I truly believed the love story.
Collins took my heart and twisted it… I wanted to pick Emmet and Lucian up like they were a child’s dolls and make them smooch already! I felt their chemistry, I felt their tensions, I felt their happiness, I felt their turmoils, I felt it all. I was invested up to every fibre of my being.
The tricky thing with The Binding is its structure and its synopsis. The synopsis infers this is a fantasy story, which is true, however I would say the fantasy element plays a minor role in the love story of Emmet Farmer and Lucian Darnay. I’ve now since seen a lot of reviews highlighting this, and I entirely agree. The Binding is, for the most part, a love story with the fantasy element coming second to that.
As well, the structure of the book is tough on the story’s pace. The Binding is split into three parts: the first part of the book sets up a world of dangerous books and the careers of binders, providing a really intriguing world building function. The second part of the book focuses on the developing romance between a high born male and a countryside farmer. The third part is a fusing of both part one and part two to give a high stakes climax.
Part one was painfully slow to read, which lasts until about 30% of the read. After this, it was smooth sailing and I largely read the book in one sitting as I was THAT invested.
I really loved the character Emmet. We see two sides of him – the meek and vulnerable side, and then the energetic and spirited side. Part one Emmet and Part two Emmet honestly read like two different people. These layers really impressed me, and I was further impressed by how Lucian in part two compared to Lucian in part three also read like two different people.
I will write for those who would like trigger warnings: there’s also a more serious tone to this story, on the topics of abuse, rape and killing animals.
The premise of The Binding was extremely interesting and I’d love to see Collins write something set in this world and expand upon what she’s created for binders and binding. It was really intriguing from the get go, and I want more.
I do see myself rereading this because I loved it. Emmet and Lucian is a coupling I never imagined in my wildest dreams is the ship I’d be willing to go down with. I would have happily rated this book 5 stars – but the slow beginning was quite painful to get past. So that’s why it’s getting 4 stars. I genuinely think The Binding is brilliant evidence of how masterful of a writer Collins can be, and I am eagerly anticipating her upcoming novel, The Betrayals. I’ve already preordered it!
The Binding by Bridget Collins
Published January 2019
Genre: romance, lgbt romance, historical fiction, fantasy, fiction
Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley for my e-copy in exchange for this honest review