The Binding by Bridget Collins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
DNF @ 40%
A strange thing happens in The Binding. We are taken through Part I which is full of magical intrigue, book binding principles, books galore; and then it's all ripped away. Part II opens up and it's like nothing in Part I happened at all! Now we are just stuck on a farm with our (not so interesting) and seemingly non-magical teen boy. Whereas in Part I the same teen boy was just coming into his own personally and professionally (as a magical book binder) when we are pulled away from the story.
Good Stuff Too Early
In a world where it is increasingly difficult to capture the attention of any one person, never mind a large group of people, it's critical that you not give away too much of the good stuff too soon. If the beginning of a book, like The Binding, is infinitely more interesting than the rest then any author is going to have a hard time keeping their reader around for another 300+ pages.
As I didn't read the whole book (I gave up during Part II) I went and read some spoiler plot points and other reviews. These all confirmed exactly what I suspected, the good stuff was all over and the rest of The Binding might have been be a good story IF you didn't know what happened in Part I.
What Bridget Collins should have done with The Binding is flipped narratives around and started with a teaser of Part I and then stuck us into Part II right away. That way we haven't had our attention piqued and the interesting stuff ripped from our attention. Our world has a lot of competition for attention and ultimately enticing people to to read more must be a large priority. Sadly farms, even ones with cute m/m possible relationships, just aren't that interestin (or at least not near as interesting as books full of memories).
Books about Books
I've said it before, there is nothing quite as easy as marketing a book about books (or book related activities) to a bunch of bookworms. It should be a slam dunk. You might not get the mass appeal that Stephen King garners but you'll likely get a small, devoted following to your story. The Binding is one of these books that should have been an easy sell to someone like me. A book about binding books that have magical properties!? Sign me up now!
Now, maybe my excitement about the possibility of a fantasy and magical realism mixed in with the art of book binding (not with a machine but by hand) had my expectations too high? Or maybe I just wanted to have the whole story be about books (and Part II clearly wasn't)? Or perhaps it's a little of both; which seems the most likely. Either way the use of book binding should have made this a worthy read; too bad there isn't any book binding in Part II up to the point I read.
Writing, Setting, etc.
It's really too bad that the focus and plot of The Binding fly off the rails as the writing itself is really lovely. It's a romantic, sing-songy style that invoked an archaic, medieval feel for me. the descriptions and use of magic in Part I are just enough without being overwhelming; and our lead boys response to the magic and how it affects him is really well done. I especially appreciated that he was sick for a long time before he could do even small amounts of magic or binding. No easy road here for this hero. It felt realistic in a way that most magical fantasy stories aren't able to convey. It's so tragic that this writing, imagery and setting don't result in a plot and story that I cared about enough to finish the novel.
Collins has some definite talent for setting a scene and creating worlds that are well developed. Additionally Collins clearly knows how to write characters that readers can bond with almost immediately. Because of this obvious talent in writing I would try another Collins book again; even though I did not finish this one. The Binding should have been one of my top reads of the year; and if Part I had continued forward in the same style, setting, etc. it might have been. Unfortunately we end up on a farm bored out of our minds with the harvesting, horses and not enough to keep it all going. It's sad because I bet the m/m relationship that was developing between our two teen boys was adorable. However there is no amount of cuteness between two characters (even gay ones) that will have me put up with descriptions of grains and farm animals for dozens and dozens of pages.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Follow me on Goodreads