The Binding by Bridget Collins

A review of the historical fantasy novel The Binding by Bridget Collins.

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The Binding by Bridget Collins is an enthralling tale of love and loss, and is utterly unlike any tale that has gone before. We have all known the pleasure of curling up in a corner with book. We have all felt ourselves drawn in by the allure of some alternative reality where everything is so very nearly magical. We love the escapism that an hour or two can offer. Before I know it, I am no longer me. I am lost so deep in the pages of this volume.

And that is exactly what The Binding does. Emmett Farmer is no one special. Destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and lead an utterly unremarkable life. In this world of Collins’ creation books are not as we know them. True books contain a person’s life – memories taken and trapped within the pages. Since he was a child, books have held a deep fascination for Emmett. You can imagine his surprise when he discovers that he himself has been bound. A life his family had hoped he would forget is trapped within the pages of a book that bears his name.

Throughout the novel, one can’t help but feel that Emmett is trapped. Trapped and manipulated, frequently by those close to him. We too are kept in the dark for much of the story. Wisps of the truth tease us deeper into the book, as The Binding slowly unravels.

When Emmett enters the service of the bookbinder, scenes evocative of The Woman in Black arise. The reader’s mind is filled with visions of desolate marshes, green and grey, parched and damp. A landscape so unwelcoming that you’d think no one would dare to go there. Just as Emmett begins to settle into his new life, the peculiar Lucian Darnay arrives. Darnay and Emmett are inexplicably linked, though it is at first impossible to tell how, and whether their relationship will prove to be amicable or antagonistic. These young men flirt along the thin line of love and hate through much of the novel. It isn’t until much later that we learn the truth about these two.

Emmett’s sister, Alta, is every bit the simpering school-girl infatuated with lordly Lucian who is staying with his uncle just across the fields. Lucian’s attachment to the young girl seems anything but genuine and the phrase ‘one thing’ springs to mind. But in time Emmett comes to believe in Lucian’s love for his sister. But as Lucian grows more authentic in Emmett’s eyes, things begin to change. Emmett relaxes the violent tendencies he previously showed towards Lucian and seeks to build a relationship. All too soon Lucian is revealed as fraud. But not in the way one first expected. The young aristocrat was indeed deceptive in his intentions towards Alta. However, he had no intention of dragging her off to bed as Emmett feared. In fact quite the opposite. Alta was only ever a means to an end for Lucian – a way to get close to Emmett.

Lucian’s love for Emmett is fostered from a fraternal bond that grows into something far more. And let us not mistake Lucian for the villain here. Far more sinister characters are lurking in this novel. Darnay the elder, Lucian’s father, for one. A man who by all accounts turns stomachs. In fact at one point Emmett is physically sick in the middle of his carpet! When Lucian confesses his love to Emmett, he does the noble thing. He says if Emmett tells him to, he will marry Alta, as he had promised he would. He does not, however, seem to appreciate the intolerable situation into which Emmett is thrown. Choosing between romantic love and love for one’s family will never be an easy choice.

And it seems Emmett cannot win. As quickly as he has chosen his lover, Lucian is snatched away back to his father and Emmett is told by the family lawyer that he is only the latest in a long line of vulnerable young fools to fall prey to Lucian.

After Emmett’s memories of the time he spent with Darnay are bound into a book, Emmett falls ill. This is where the story begins. All the above mentioned is a puzzle pieced together along the narrative. The Binding plays with love and power in a way that many seem to lose.

I loved this book and will undoubtedly read it again. It is magical, and alluring, with love that tugs at the heartstrings and loss that tears it all apart.

Emma Standon is a writer who loves to travel and explore the world. She is passionate about beautiful places and telling new stories.

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