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The Betrayals

de Bridget Collins

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Blog Review: https://trishadoeseverythingbutstudy2.wordpress.com/2021/01/31/january-2021-revi...

I really loved it!

This is some of the best fiction I've read in a while, and really good too. It's one of the few books I've read that are set in France, and is definitely one of the best.

The story is so well written; nothing is obvious, everyone has secrets, and there are so many things at play. There are also two storylines; one storyline is set in the past, nad one set in the sorta present, with three perspectives. I loved the different perspectives, but I would really have liked to see more of the Rat's perspective.

I really liked Claire and Leo's relationship, which was not a romance, not really. Or maybe it was.

It's so hard to write this review without any spoilers. One of the many reasons the synopsis is so confusing if it had even the tiniest bit more detail you would be spoiled.

*sigh* Let's start again.

This book has the whole creepy mysterious atmosphere down pretty well, and really keeps you on your toes the whole time. You think you're getting closer to figuring out one of the many mysteries in this, while you have no idea what's actually going on, who's what, and what actually is the grand jeu.

And while I was a bit mad that the grand jeu is never explained explicitly, it does add to the whole mystery of this. Same with a lot of other aspects; the not knowing, and slow uncovering of details and plot lines, inevitably leading a really satisfactory 'Aha! I should have known all along' moments was really the most enjoyable part of this.

The part of this that I was the most regretful about, was that in the end there was no happy ending, per se. It leaves off incomplete but realistic, and the leaving the ending up to me is great, but not always, so I was really glad with the execution of it in this book.

I had a bit of a theory while reading this that came mostly true, and I'd like to include it here So, it's from my BR thread:55%
I have this theory, what with the reflection thing....I actually had it at that part of the book,, but I dismissed it at the point. Right now, though, with the following description of Dryden: In spite of her plainness, her masculine jaw and straight brows, in spite of – no, because, because she’s herself, she’s lovely, and he never saw it. Is it possible that his third year project succeeded or something? And maybe turned Carfax into a mirror image of himself? Same but opposite? In Dryden?
I know it's really farfetched, and I also know there's no chance of it being true, but I just wanted to share it because it occurred to me :)
So I turned out to be kinda right with Carfax and Dryden being the same in a way, but I had some mad theories.


On the whole a really intriguing and enjoyable read, and one I would recommend to people who like fantasy, historical fiction(the non-romance kind ;)), mysterious settings, slight romances with realistic endings, confusing storylines but ones which make sense in the end. Mostly. ( )
  trisha_tomy | Jun 1, 2021 |
This book had great bones but it needed more fleshing out. Collins created this great setting and she could have done so much with it, but there were many aspects of the story that are never fully developed. I was enjoying my time at Montverre and was hungry for more details. The story lags just a bit through the middle which really wasn't a problem for me but she could have used that space to embellish the story. There is a twist in the plot that I didn't see coming and an ending that I didn't expect, so that was interesting. I also enjoyed the way the book was structured. This is my second book by Bridget Collins and I think she has wonderful story ideas. I'll always look forward to whatever she puts out next despite being a bit critical of this one. ( )
  Iudita | May 18, 2021 |
There was no question about it, when I saw the arc of 'The Betrayals' it jumped to the top of my reading list. I had loved 'The Binding' and expected a similar tale of magic and romance.

'The Betrayals' is different, and that's a good thing. In a country in the latter stages of a fascist consolidation, we meet Leonard Martin. He had been a rising star in the Party, serving as a minister overseeing culture, but a fit of conscience has put him in hot water with leadership and he has been sent in disgrace to Montverre. Montverre is a national institution, a boarding school for privileged boys that is most known as the center of the national game of grand jeu.

As an academic institution, Montverre and grand jeu has had the ability to hold itself above politics and pretend to be unaffected by it. However, the government and factions within the faculty and students have begun paying close attention to the school and the game. This scrutiny is not helped by the fact that a woman, Claire Dryden, was recently named Magister Ludi. Martin's coming to Montverre can't be seen as anything but a prelude to government interference, but there's an additional, personal complication.

Leonard Martin had been a promising student at Montverre, and had had a friendship with the Magister Ludi's brother. The history of their relationship and the drama unfolding at the current academy is underscored by the reluctant report between Martin and Ludi. A third character known only as the Rat, who lives in the attics of the school and scavenges provides more tension.

The parallels between the unidentified homeland of the grand jeu and the rise of populist extremism in Europe in the 1930s are clear. The technology and culture are clearly the same as our '30s and '40s and the Party has started targeting Christians, and presumably other religions, in earnest, requiring them to wear patches on their clothes identifying them. If the book has a flaw, it is probably with not going far enough into the nature of politics in this world. Fascism often seemed like evil window dressing instead of something to be examined or warned about. The grand jeu itself is a mystery and the book spends a lot of time defining and obfuscating the nature of the game. I enjoyed that piece of it. This was not what I was expecting, but it was engrossing. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | May 13, 2021 |
In an unnamed country with fascist undertones, disgraced politician Léonard Martin is sent back to Montverre, a monastery-like school in the mountains where they teach the grand jeu. There he meets Claire Dryden, the magister responsible for teaching the game, and the only woman ever to cross the school's threshold. Torn between resentment and a growing attraction, the two perform a delicate dance, while the school suddenly becomes the focus of the government's cultural policy changes.

The plot – whatever there is of it – is very difficult to describe, as the reader seems to spend a great deal of time inside the two main protagonists' heads, with excursions into Léo's diary entries during his training at Montverre, and the enigmatic character of the Rat. While this isn't exactly a page turner, the internal dialogue of Léo and Claire gets under your skin, and I couldn't stop thinking about the two of them. And while the book can't be called a whole-hearted success because there were sections where the novel definitely dragged – the passages about the intricacies of the grand jeu, for example, maybe because the novel thought itself too clever? – Bridget Collins' prose is once again worth savouring. ( )
  passion4reading | Mar 7, 2021 |
The Binding by Bridget Collins was a reading highlight in 2019 and I loved it so much it made my Top 5 Books of 2019 list. As soon as I learned a new book The Betrayals was being published in 2020, it immediately became one of my most hotly anticipated books of the year. I even placed a pre-order so that I could enjoy the limited edition signed hardcopy with gold foiling and sprayed edges from Waterstones.

I can't remember the last time I pre-ordered a book but I also requested a review copy, so desperate was I to get my hands on this as soon as it came out. I hoped The Betrayals would whisk me away into another magical bookish world and deliver a repeat five star reading experience.

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is hard to define. It reads like a college style campus novel, taking place as it does in an all male academy called Montverre located in a remote and mountainous countryside. At times it felt like a combination of Dead Poets Society with a dash of the Harry Potter series (for the Hogwarts setting and syllabus, not the magic).

However, it's also kind of dystopian as the oppressive party politics of the day are different to our own, with a growing lack of tolerance for those of a particular faith that begins to infiltrate the academy.

The students are there to study the grand jeu which is a series of movements that flow together to form a performance of intellectual expression. Students study mathematics, music and a tonne of arcane subjects that definitely gave me Harry Potter vibes. Students spend months writing and practising their grand jeu and compete with each other to achieve the highest marks.

Leo Martin is a politician and our protagonist, and at the beginning of the book he finds himself ousted from the political party and sent to Montverre in disgrace. The narrative also includes diary entries and scenes from Leo's time as a student at the academy and secrets and old heartbreaks from that time are gradually revealed.

There is plenty to admire about the grand jeu, but of course it's up to the reader to imagine the movements and the overall impact of the performance on the audience. In my mind, it took the form of an intellectual Tai chi, but that's because I lack any further imagination.

This is a coming-of-age romance novel set in an undetermined time and location that straddles multiple genres, including historical fiction, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction. The character struggles were real but the academy setting was the real highlight, with secret passages, countless windows, attic spaces, hidey holes and oh, those libraries!

However, by the end of the last page, I wasn't able to relive the magical five star reading experience that was The Binding. Perhaps it's an unfair comparison, but when you've greatly enjoyed a special book, it does create a certain level of hope and expectation for whatever is to follow from the author.

What is certain, is that The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is a glorious book that I will look at lovingly on my shelves in years to come. Not only for the stunning book cover design that is easily my favourite of 2020, but for the promise it contained.

* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins * ( )
1 vote Carpe_Librum | Dec 21, 2020 |
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