Book Review | The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)

I was kindly approved for an e-arc via NetGalley.

Following the success of The Binding, The Betrayals is Bridget Collins’ second adult novel. I am yet to read The Binding, but I have a copy that I’m excited to read soon, especially after enjoying this novel.

The Betrayals takes us to Montverre, a school in the mountains dedicated to the study of the grand jeu. Leo, who attended the school 10 years previously, has been forced to return whilst on exile from his governmental position and we follow as he faces his own memories of his time at Montverre and the events that transpired in his second year there. We also follow the first female Magister Ludi, Claire Dryden, as Leo’s return impacts her and causes her own memories and emotions to stir. Collins’ novel is full of suspense and intrigue as we learn about the past and uncover secrets and lies that have been kept for years, but will soon be revealed.

I really enjoyed this novel and I think Collins builds the intrigue of it amazingly. Her writing is beautiful, and I got lost within the narrative. Unfortunately, I did guess one of the plot points but the intrigue was such that I was constantly second guessing and so it did not spoil my reading. It was the intrigue of what would happen and what characters were hiding that kept me gripped to this novel and Collins carefully chooses when to reveal information, both to her characters and to her reader.

What I love about this novel are the characters and relationships that Collins builds. She gave me a clear sense of Claire, Leo and Carfax and she crafts well-rounded and complex characters. They’ve all had to keep secrets and tell lies which complicates their relationships and heightens the tensions between them. As more was revealed in the plot, I awaited the character’s reactions and what would happen when truths were finally revealed.

However, I felt that the ‘grand jeu’ was difficult to comprehend, especially to picture in my mind, and I think I would have been fine for that part of the narrative to be simpler. That said, I did get an idea of it and perhaps it was me thinking it was more complex.

I did not expect this novel to deal with issues of religion and gender, but it does so very cleverly. As Claire is the first female Magister at Montverre, Collins depicts a patriarchal structure both at the school and government that Claire must battle against to maintain her position. It was interesting to see how Magister Dryden felt and dealt with this as well as how the men reacted to her.  One of the plot lines looks at opinions towards religion and what that means for Christians in the novel and I found that this made me think about responses to religion through time as well as in today’s society. This novel brought up issues and questions that are relevant today and that was unexpected for me, but I loved that element and think it adds a depth to this fictional world that brings up thoughts of the real world.

The ending of the novel was satisfactory but left me to imagine what might happen next. I also came away with a few questions, but this novel was so full of intrigue that I did not expect an ending where every question was answered and every thread neatly tied up to resolution. What Collins gives the reader is an ending that finishes the narrative arc of the novel but leaves room for your mind to imagine what may happen next.

I find the genre of this novel hard to place because it feels like it could be historical fiction, but also felt quite modern (I think the novel is set early – mid 20th century, but I’m not sure), and it also felt to me like it had elements of both fantasy and dystopia. As I was reading, I liked this mix and I loved the feel of the novel as Collins transported me to the mountains and Montverre.

Overall, Collins creates the perfect setting, complex characters and an intriguing narrative. She deftly ties together the strands of her plot so that different plot lines weave together and cross over, including the narrative of the Rat.

The Betrayals is released on 12th November 2020 and is definitely one to look out for.

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