“When the letter came I was out in the fields, binding up my last sheaf of wheat with hands that were shaking so much I could hardly tie the knot.”First line in The Binding by Bridget Collins
Author: Bridget Collins
Genre: Historical fantasy
My rating: 3.75/5 stars
I have so many conflicting feelings about The Binding by Bridget Collins. Maybe not the most positive start to a review but I still have a lot to say. Let me first say that you should take my star rating of 3.75 with a grain of salt. It’s an average. You see, the book contains three parts that are quite different from each other. My star rating for each part:
- Part 1 – 2 stars
- Part 2 – 5 stars
- Part 3 – 4 stars
Now it’s time to go behind the numbers. I’ll do this by listing the things I liked and didn’t like about The Binding. Let’s start with what I didn’t like so we can end on a positive note.
Things I didn’t like
- Lack of information.
I need to know things! Collins is extremely sparse with what I would call practical information, and that left me with so many questions while reading. Where are we? What do the characters look like? How old are they?
Especially the question of where this story is set is relevant. I kept wondering whether this was a fantasy or a historical fantasy and missing the world-building. It’s not super relevant to the story as it is very character-driven but it’s distracting for me not to know.
- Writing annoyances
Two things annoyed me about the writing. Firstly, withholding information from the main character (and the reader) by cutting off other characters’ sentences for no reason. Here’s an example:
“It’s not…” Ma drew in her breath. “Maybe it’s not what I would have wanted, before…”
Sentences like these would come up all the time to let me know that there was some secret that I, as a reader, didn’t know. I understood that after the first three times it happened and didn’t need the extra twenty.
My second problem with the writing is a very small one albeit still annoying. The word “pale”. If I ever reread this book, I want to do a word count of that word. Everything in this book is pale. Eyes, hands, flowers, walls. Please use another word.
- Pacing in Part 1
I think this might be the main reason I disliked part 1 so much. The first two or three chapters felt so rushed. Like we just needed to introduce the characters as quickly as possible and then move on. Then it calmed down. A lot. It’s a very slow-paced book overall but I only had a problem with it in part 1. I kept waiting for a plot to appear and it just didn’t.
Things I liked
- The romance!
I loved that so, very much. It was the reason I read practically all of part 2 in one sitting. I won’t spoil anything, so I can’t say too much about it other than it was really well written. It’s very slow and subtle and just feels magical to read. I’m not a reader who normally enjoys romance in my books. Only when it’s this good.
- The concept of bookbinding
Bookbinding is the fantasy element in this story, and it’s really a creative idea. If you’re going to read this book, I highly encourage you to NOT read the synopsis beforehand. In my opinion, it reveals way too much about this bookbinding concept and the story in general. Therefore, I’m not going to explain it here either but just say that I appreciated how Collins made it seem like a natural part of the story.
- The writing
Yes, I had some issues with the writing as mentioned above but those were mainly a problem in part 1 (I’m hoping the 2-star rating is starting to make sense). In parts 2 and 3, it was absolutely beautiful. Maybe I’d gotten used to her writing because I’ll say it’s not the easiest book to read. I loved how Collins’ slow and thoughtful writing made me feel what the characters were feeling, and it completely pulled me into the story. I couldn’t put it down. I was reading this on my day off and I had stuff to do. As you may have guessed, I didn’t do the stuff. I just read The Binding.
Although I didn’t enjoy all of it, The Binding gave me a really nice reading experience and I would definitely recommend it. Just maybe not to everyone. The genre is historical fantasy, but I would highlight the fact that there’s more romance than fantasy in this book. The synopsis will trick you with that as well. It’s not a bad thing but it can be an unpleasant surprise if you’re not expecting it. So again, don’t read the synopsis. That’s also the reason why I haven’t included it at the beginning of this review if you were wondering.
Overall, The Binding is a slow-paced, beautifully written love story with a fantasy twist that I’m so glad to have read. I hope this review gave you an idea of whether or not this is a book for you too.