The Binding by Bridget Collins
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I picked up this book knowing only a very little about it and with having read none of the author's previous work so I really had no real expectations from this book. I know other reviewers have commented on the hype this book seems to have been getting but in my small area of Scotland I have to say I've not been aware of this and so I truly didn't have any preformed opinions.
I loved the premise of this book whereby people who have done or experienced traumatic or difficult things can go to a 'binder' who will take those memories from them and put them into a book, therefore, allowing the person to return to their life with no knowledge of their difficult past and that the book will forever be the only remaining evidence of their memories. This makes for a wonderful opportunity within a fantasy setting to really push the boundaries of our characters as they struggle to remember clearly their past and the ability to discover through books the past of other's and how people could manipulate this to stop others from remembering things they have done to them.
Collins kicks off this book with plenty of mystery as we follow Emmett Farmer, a young boy who receives a letter telling him he is to be apprenticed to a 'binder' where he will learn the trade of being a 'bookbinder'. Bookbinders are viewed with suspicion by people in the countryside, seen as trading in the occult and leaving those whose memories they take as only shell's of the people they once were. Books are objects of evil and rarely touched. For Emmett this life is one he's unprepared for and when he finds himself living in the middle of the marshes with an elderly woman 'binder' after having only just recovered from a mysterious illness which he is sure is linked to his new trade it offers us as the reader plenty of unanswered questions and mystery to keep us glued.
Yes, this book is packed with potential, from the mystery of what's happened to Emmett and why he is sick through the mysteries of 'binding' and how it works to the mysterious Lucian Darnay who comes to be bound and then seems to fall into Emmett's life. There is a darkness to this book, the evil reasons why certain characters have been bound and the hidden secrets they've been made to forget offer us huge potential. And this for me was the problem. This book ultimately failed to take advantage of the darkness that it could have offered and instead became almost a love story alone.
As we move through Part Two and Three of the book we become less involved in the whole 'binding' process and instead focus on the background of Emmett's life and his family and his first love. It's a controversial relationship for it's time to be sure but essentially this part of the book is fully dedicated to it and whilst I loved the two characters together I just felt that we lost certain magic in this section of the book as it became a romance. This meant that in Part Three of the book we are really just resolving the situation created in Part Two of the book to allow our romantic leads to resolve everything.
So whilst I enjoyed this book I was left somewhat disappointed, there are lots of characters we meet along the journey whose stories are never quite fleshed out, characters whose darkness and manipulation of binding would have made for fascinating and dark storytelling which is what I was hoping for from the beginning of this book. Instead, we have essentially a star-crossed lovers scenario that seems tame in comparison to where the book could have gone. And the ending, all just a bit too sudden for me. We resolved the outstanding reason the lovers couldn't be together and bang it was done. No further discussions at all. Literally one page it's resolved and next page 'The End'. This left me feeling unfulfilled and disappointed.
If I reflect on this book it's with a sense of missed opportunities from the author. The concept for the story is excellent, it has lots of potential but it was squandered a little to tell a story of forbidden love. The characters who really grabbed my attention and made me want to see them brought to justice were never addressed or their stories explored more. I had to give this one a 3 out of 5 stars because all the groundwork was there, the foundations were solid but just not built upon into an exciting storyline.