Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.
For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.
But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.
The Binding is the imagining of a world where one’s memories can be erased by binding them to a book. It’s always great to find something original and inventive in the Fantasy genre which has become too formulaic in the recent times. And this book had that in spades!
I went into this book blind. At the beginning, we are thrust into this Victorian era-style world with no introduction or warning. I felt almost as confused as Emmett who is unwillingly sent to be an apprentice to a book binder at the very beginning. I like having an idea about what direction a book is headed to. With this book, there was none of that. I was unsure throughout the first half. But the second act had me immersed in this world. By the third act, I was utterly mesmerized.
I love how the whole plot unfolded. This is a world where people can stoop to any level to forget or make people forget memories they are not proud of. And then there are people who make money out of selling these memories. I admire the author for delving deep into the themes she explores without shying away from the dark side of it all.
The characterization was as brilliant as the world-building. Every character has a part to play in the story.
Above everything, this is Emmett’s story – his struggle, love and guilt. At the center of it all is a forbidden love between Emmett and Lucian Darnay – who narrates the third act of the book – in a world where homosexuality is not only frowned upon but actually illegal much like the Victorian era. The splendid story of these two made me feel things like nothing else.
A shout-out to whoever designed this absolutely marvelous cover! Look at that detailing! Even if I hadn’t liked the book, I would probably still buy it for the cover. But I loved it and feel it in my gut that everyone else will too.
All in all, this was an amazing story with beautiful writing and fresh themes and a heartbreaking plot. I am going to take one star away from it because it took some time for me to be gripped by the storyline. The opening could be better.
This book is set to take 2019 by storm. Take my word for it.
My Rating: ★★★★☆