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Published in 2019 by Borough Press this gothic fantasy novel is 438 pages in length. It follows the story of Emmett Farmer who is sent to become a book binders apprentice when he can no longer work on his fathers farm due to illness. Books in this world are not mere stories, but captured memories entombed in beautifully handcrafted books. Emmett is learning the trade, helping people to forget their secrets and keep them hidden in a vault below his masters workshop, when one day he happens upon a book with his name on it.
I adored this book. It is beautifully written and a sheer joy to read. The language is descriptive and rich with imagery and emotion. I found myself lost in this book and unable to put it down for even a second. This past weekend all I have done is wander around my house with my nose in this book bumping into things. It took me a few pages to get into the flow of the story, but once I was absorbed I couldn’t draw myself back out. I had to know what happened. I found myself heavily invested in the characters and the outcome of their journey.
“Well, knowledge is always a kind of magic, I suppose.”Bridget Collins – The Binding (Page 89)
The book is set in a world similar to that of 19th century Britain. Emmett is a hand on his fathers farm but it is clear right at the start of the book that his illness has prevented him from fulfilling his duties. After a discussion with is family, he is sent to the book binder to learn the trade. There he meets his new master and begins his tutelage.
The characters are wonderfully written. They are deep, three dimensional people governed by their own motives and secrets. I found Emmett to be deeply relatable and enjoyed watching him grow into himself throughout the novel. His journey of self discovery is something I think we can all relate to in some way.
If you intend to read this book (and I highly recommend that you do), I suggest you do not read any further in this review. Below I will talk in more detail about how the book affected me, but there will be spoilers and I think it will ruin your experience of the book if you know them before you read it. I truly loved this book and I hope anyone planning to read it finds as much joy in it as I did.
Grab a copy here before you read on!
This was not the story I was expecting from the synopsis. I am a huge lover of fantasy and magic, and it was that which tempted me to pick up this novel. I was pleasantly surprised then, when about half way through I discovered it was a romance! I was expecting a tale of hardship in learning the magical binding craft, when really that is an aside in a story that is predominantly a tale of forbidden love and self discovery.
I am not usually the romance type. I often find it all a bit contrived and sickly, but this book has prompted me to reconsider my stance. Perhaps I am denying myself an enjoyable reading experience. I certainly enjoyed every second of this love story. It was believable and captivating. It was forbidden and heartbreaking. I was fully invested in it and felt everything the characters were feeling. This is mostly down to the fantastic writing. The way Collins describes her world thought the eyes of her infatuated characters is beautiful. Colours are brighter and the world a more vibrant place when they are together, and their love for each other is conveyed beautifully throughout, even before they realise it.
“We stare at each other. The sun flares behind him, spilling red through a gap between the tenements. It glitters in his hair. His temple and jaw and the tip of one ear glow scarlet. Unexpectedly, as sudden as the flood if sunlight, he smiles at me. It changed his face completely. I cant remember anyone looking at me like that, ever. It makes the sunset redder, the scent of soot and paraffin sharper, the cold ache in my fingers more intense. The wind sings in a chimney somewhere above us. A crumple of paper whispers and swoops across the cobbles. The horn of a distant factory blares.”Bridget Collins – The Binding (Page 363)
I love Collins ability to convey emotion in her prose without outwardly stating how everyone is feeling all the time. She uses description and imagery to demonstrate the passion and feeling in a situation, leaving it up to the reader to interpret it how they will. It is this technique that gives the writing its extra edge and really allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the novel.
The book has rocketed to one of my all time favourites and I cant wait to read it again. It is one of those books that is so well written, there will still be new things to discover the second time round.
You can grab a copy here.