This must be one of the prettiest newly-published books I’ve ever seen. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the spine is reminiscent of older, hand-bound books. And once you take off that wonderful dust cover, the naked glory of the book really shines… And it’s contents are just as beautiful.
STAR RATING: 5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/01/2019 UK // 16/04/2019 US
SUMMARY: In a late early modern inspired world, young Emmett Farmer is sent to be apprenticed with a mysterious binder instead of taking over his father’s farm. He slowly learns about bookbinding, until he finds out what binders truly do. This leads to a series of events unravelling the darker sides of the craft, and ultimately to Emmett discovering his own past and finding love. (This one is really hard to summarize while trying to avoid spoilers!)
OPINIONS: I originally got pulled in by the beautiful cover, and the beautiful hardback ARCs I kept seeing on social media, and stayed for magic and bookbinding. But that is really not what this book is about. At it’s centre is love, love developing and love worth fighting for, but also love turned sour, abuse and issues of respect. And I should probably mention that the romantic relationship is between two men – which I find great!
The book is split into three parts, each uttely different, but equally captivating. In a way, they can be described as present, past and future – showing ‘present’ Emmett learning how to bind, flashing back to ‘past’ Emmett falling in love despite his best intentions not to like the man in question, and the third part opens the door for ‘future’ Emmett, who can recover his lost love and build a life according to his own desires. The writing is truly extraordinary, and somehow, fitting perfectly with the story and the physical book, both captivating and slow-burning. I tried to savour this book, trying to read individual chapters between tasks, until I got sucked in and read far past my bedtime.
Binding is a kind of magic, and binders are seen as witches by the general population – reminiscent of real-world history witch-hunt, a Crusade against them took part approximately 60 years before the events of this novel. Binders are born, not made, as I understand the story, and have black-out like symptoms to indicate their powers – these allow them to work willing subjects’ memories into bound books, allowing the subjects to forget. This can be a trade agreement, cathartic act, or even abuse. There is much debate about the morality of binding, and therefore the sale of books, and I found it very interesting to think about matters from this very different perspective.
The main characters, Emmett and Lucian, are extremely well developed and grow in their flaws and strengths over the course of the story. Their arcs drive the story, which is one of my favourite parts about novels, and I loved that this story allowed its magic to unfold slowly, without stuffing the story with unnecessary action. However, I do worry that this will put off many readers – but honestly, that’s their loss! The love story is incredibly well-developed and builds slowly and naturally, while also addressing class issues. This theme then becomes central to the third part of the book, where Lucian’s rich and powerful father consciously abuses his privileged position, abuses his servants (one of which his cycle of abuse and binding drives to suicide).
In short, please read this book, and be kind to the humans around you!