21 December 2020

Review: The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins book cover
* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins *

The Binding by Bridget Collins was a reading highlight in 2019 and I loved it so much it made my Top 5 Books of 2019 list. As soon as I learned a new book The Betrayals was being published in 2020, it immediately became one of my most hotly anticipated books of the year. I even placed a pre-order so that I could enjoy the limited edition signed hardcopy with gold foiling and sprayed edges from Waterstones.

I can't remember the last time I pre-ordered a book but I also requested a review copy, so desperate was I to get my hands on this as soon as it came out. I hoped The Betrayals would whisk me away into another magical bookish world and deliver a repeat five star reading experience. 

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is hard to define. It reads like a college style campus novel, taking place as it does in an all male academy called Montverre located in a remote and mountainous countryside. At times it felt like a combination of Dead Poets Society with a dash of the Harry Potter series (for the Hogwarts setting and syllabus, not the magic).

However, it's also kind of dystopian as the oppressive party politics of the day are different to our own, with a growing lack of tolerance for those of a particular faith that begins to infiltrate the academy.

The students are there to study the grand jeu which is a series of movements that flow together to form a performance of intellectual expression. Students study mathematics, music and a tonne of arcane subjects that definitely gave me Harry Potter vibes. Students spend months writing and practising their grand jeu and compete with each other to achieve the highest marks.

Leo Martin is a politician and our protagonist, and at the beginning of the book he finds himself ousted from the political party and sent to Montverre in disgrace. The narrative also includes diary entries and scenes from Leo's time as a student at the academy and secrets and old heartbreaks from that time are gradually revealed.

There is plenty to admire about the grand jeu, but of course it's up to the reader to imagine the movements and the overall impact of the performance on the audience. In my mind, it took the form of an intellectual Tai chi, but that's because I lack any further imagination.

This is a coming-of-age romance novel set in an undetermined time and location that straddles multiple genres, including historical fiction, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction. The character struggles were real but the academy setting was the real highlight, with secret passages, countless windows, attic spaces, hidey holes and oh, those libraries! 

However, by the end of the last page, I wasn't able to relive the magical five star reading experience that was The Binding. Perhaps it's an unfair comparison, but when you've greatly enjoyed a special book, it does create a certain level of hope and expectation for whatever is to follow from the author.

What is certain, is that The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is a glorious book that I will look at lovingly on my shelves in years to come. Not only for the stunning book cover design that is easily my favourite of 2020, but for the promise it contained. You can read a FREE sample here.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. I agree with your assessment here. I really wish the grand jeu had been less vague and more specific, I think that would have enhanced my enjoyment.


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