ARC Review: The Binding – Bridget Collins

The Binding
Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

I requested The Binding from Netgalley because it’s about magic produced by book binding. I work in book production, so I was so excited to see that there was a book coming out that dealt with producing the physical book copy.

It was amazing reading about making and gluing endpapers, and adding foil to book covers. This book made me want to take up learning how to do bookbinding in my spare time. I would love to learn how a book is made by hand.

This book is a lot more about people than about magic, and the magical world of bookbinding is more the setting than the main part of the story. Bookbinding is used to remove memories from a person. But what memories are removed, and who decides what is removed. How does the removal of memories alter a person?

The second third of the book gets very gloomy and dark. It focusses a lot on hiding crimes through bookbinding. It was very difficult to read.

There is a romance between Emmet and a young man, and at times it was infuriating to realise how much they were not understanding about themselves due to bookbinding, and I wasn’t sure if the veil would be lifted at the end, as it felt like it could have gone both ways. I was happy with the ending that was written, but I think I would have been just as happy with the other option.

This is an amazing book. I recommend it to anyone who would like to read about bookbinding as a form of magic, and who wants to read a story that analyses what memories for us.

Trigger warnings: trauma, sexual assault, rape, forced repression of memories.

5 stars

Will you be reading The Binding?

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