It’s finally the end of January! What a month it’s been. We’ve spent most of it locked down here in the UK, so I’ve been filling any spare time when I’m not working or looking after the house with reading (okay there’s been unhealthy amounts of Netflix too..).
As a result I’ve managed to work my way through 6 books this month, which is a high reading number for me, I don’t think I’ve managed anything like that in my adult working life previously! I’ve read an absolute classic and 3 proof copies of new books – 2 are out mid February and I’m really looking forward to sharing those with you.. but not yet ;)! This week’s blog post is about a book that’s sat on my shelf since mid-November that I kept meaning to read but had put off for such a long time. I’d pre-ordered the special signed edition so I was really hoping to love it.. but did I?
THE BETRAYALS, BY BRIDGET COLLINS
So firstly, this is some bookshelf porn right here… The book has pink sprayed edges (EEK) and it’s one of the most beautiful dust covers I own. It also sits very nicely next to its older sister on my shelf, both looking like immaculate condition victorian hardbacks from the same volume. Speaking of its older sister, if you’re wondering ‘Bridget Collins… where do I know that name?’ then that will most likely be from her no.1 bestseller ‘The Binding’ which is honestly one of my favourite reads. That book took me on twists and surprises I did not see so I was hoping for the same here… but there’s always the anticipation of ‘what if I hate their next book?’ when you find a magical author, so a lot was riding on this one for me. No pressure then!
“If everything in your life was based on a lie, would you risk it all to tell the truth?”The Betrayals
The story is that of Leo Martin, a government politician banished for speaking his mind against the party in power that he works for, who he feels is becoming too extreme in their policies. He is forced to resign from his position and sent back to his old university, Montverre, to take up again his interest in the ‘Grand Jeu’. The story then follows Leo in two time frames, one at which he was a young teenager/man the first time at his university studying the ‘Grand Jeu’ and the second of him returning as an adult.
The opening scene did seem somewhat Harry Potter-esque in style to me and I openly admit that I was thinking to myself ‘either this is going to be brilliant new world, or a slight copy of Harry Potter. Please don’t let it be the latter.‘ Thankfully that thought passed as we were taken into the world which seemed very Oxford/Cambridge in style, however there aren’t any other subjects other than the ‘Grand Jeu’ to master here. The ‘game’ as it is described throughout is said to be the national game (of what country, who knows. The descriptions make me think Switzerland or Austria) however it is an academic study of music, maths and poetry presented as some sort of religious presentation. It’s honestly one of the most frustrating pieces of this book. The author describes it in so many different words, conversations and character movements, yet doesn’t describe it all. A lot is left to your imagination here.
Speaking of your imagination, the opening chapter is that of the character ‘Rat’ as we follow her through the Montverre building as she goes to find a piece of food. We explore Montverre really through ‘Rat’, learning it’s layout, age and the unobserved actions of other characters in the story.
The other character we read is ‘The Magister Ludi’, which is a high ranking position with the school, again never quite described but it’s like the Master of Games. What is interesting about the current ML is that it is taken by a Woman. Montverre is a strictly male school, the fact a woman has taken the position is something of an uncomfortable situation causing friction for many of her male students and faculty. She got to her position by chance of being able to display her talents without clarifying her gender it would seem, but this is shrouded in a bit of happenstance.
Leo is attempting to settle back into school but finds the interaction with the female Magister Ludi very uncomfortable. He feels drawn to her, but knows that he cannot be but nor does he know why…
The story is mysterious, surprising us at twists and turns, drumming emotion from within about love, loss, injustice and loneliness (and betrayal, obviously), but also it’s bloody fascinating because part of being the reader is not quite understanding or trusting the characters, their motives, their perspectives or what they’re actually doing. It’s all very complicated and puzzle like, but beautifully crafted from start to finish.
“Sometimes I wonder if any of us tell the truth about anything.”The Betrayals
The book is in some ways, a game in itself.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4.5/5
I began with some doubts but I slowly forgot those and fell right into the game. My only frustration was about the ‘grand jeu’ and that I was reading character’s actions without quite understanding what it was I was supposed to be seeing. In some ways, this is annoying, but in other ways it also opens your mind up to your own imagination and makes you create the action, which is actually pretty fun once you accept that thats what you’re expected to do.
There are a lot of musical references which thankfully I understood but if you don’t read music or have never studied it it may get a bit tiresome to keep reading words that mean nothing to you.
It’s not like The Binding in terms of pace, so don’t pick up if that’s what you’re wanting. It’s a clever, slowly crafted, intelligent burn.
Would recommend to: Readers of historical fiction (there’s one single clue that this is set in mid 1920’s & 30s), fantasy and romance.
Where to buy:
Half Price at Waterstones right now! £7.49 for Hardback. Or support your local indie, RRP £14.99.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
Pukka night time tea. Honestly this stuff is what dreams are made of.. hahahaha (sorry not sorry). It’s herbal, delicious, warming and sends me right off to sleep. Perfect for settling down with whilst reading right before bed. £2.39 for 20 bags at supermarkets, boots and more.
So readers, will you be putting this mysterious book into your online baskets? I mean it’s on SALE…. ;).
Until the next Chapter,