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If everything in your life was based on a lie Would you risk it all to tell the truth? At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns If everything in your life was based on a lie Would you risk it all to tell the truth? At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters. Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before. Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…


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If everything in your life was based on a lie Would you risk it all to tell the truth? At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns If everything in your life was based on a lie Would you risk it all to tell the truth? At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters. Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before. Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…

30 review for The Betrayals

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    even though this book has the enchanting quality i have come to associate with BC thanks to her debut novel, ‘the binding,’ im still trying to figure out why i didnt love this as much. this is an extremely atmospheric novel. with the abstract concept of the grand jeu, a tragic death, a nefarious government party, and elusive characters, theres a mysterious feel to everything. and i think its because the primary focus seems to be on the characters, which im not quite sure was the best decisio even though this book has the enchanting quality i have come to associate with BC thanks to her debut novel, ‘the binding,’ im still trying to figure out why i didnt love this as much. this is an extremely atmospheric novel. with the abstract concept of the grand jeu, a tragic death, a nefarious government party, and elusive characters, theres a mysterious feel to everything. and i think its because the primary focus seems to be on the characters, which im not quite sure was the best decision, as that leave the multiple outside forces not really fully explored, and i feel like the story was hindered because of it. and looking at the four main character POVs, there was truly only one whose chapters i was actively looking forward to reading. the other three are either seemingly unnecessary or just uninteresting. that being said, i just could not put this down. something about it sucked me in and kept me engaged. i think the writing just has such a charming nature to it, that i didnt want to stop reading it. overall, not as good as BCs debut novel, in my opinion, but still worth reading. ↠ 3.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    I do not know how Ms Collins does this but her writing and imagintion take me on a reading journey that is most unique and captivating. The world in The Betrayals can be traced down to the dark times in history, with fascism and it ideas such as purity laws or authocratic rule, and yet, this is not strickly speaking a historical fiction. The tale of Claire, Leo and the Rat is an engaging story of choices they make, of courage, of mother's love, and of opportunism or opposition towards dictatorsh I do not know how Ms Collins does this but her writing and imagintion take me on a reading journey that is most unique and captivating. The world in The Betrayals can be traced down to the dark times in history, with fascism and it ideas such as purity laws or authocratic rule, and yet, this is not strickly speaking a historical fiction. The tale of Claire, Leo and the Rat is an engaging story of choices they make, of courage, of mother's love, and of opportunism or opposition towards dictatorship. The feeling of uneasiness and looming danger stayed with me throughout the whole novel, and especially the Rat won my heart, the Rat who is lonely and alone, and whose hiding and survival are heart-wrenching. For me, The Betrayals was a perfect read, absorbing and offering total immersion. *A big thank-you to Bridget Collins, Harper Collins, and NetGalley for arc inexchange for my honest review.*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ‘’Tonight the moonlight makes the floor of the Great Hall into a game board. Every high window casts a bright lattice, dividing the hall into black and white, squares and margins. The ranks of wooden benches face one another on three sides; in the space between them, there is nothing but straight shadows on stone, an abstract in pen and ink. It is as still as a held breath.’’ In a country ruled by the Party, a minister who has fallen out of favour returns to the place that marked his course i ‘’Tonight the moonlight makes the floor of the Great Hall into a game board. Every high window casts a bright lattice, dividing the hall into black and white, squares and margins. The ranks of wooden benches face one another on three sides; in the space between them, there is nothing but straight shadows on stone, an abstract in pen and ink. It is as still as a held breath.’’ In a country ruled by the Party, a minister who has fallen out of favour returns to the place that marked his course in life twenty years ago. A time of immense potential and endless egotism. Montverre is the beating heart of the grand jeu, the game where music, maths, dreams and concentration neet to form a peculiar combination. The jewel of the land, the pride of the nation, the mirror of the ‘’purity’’ enforced by the Party. It is there that Leo meets Claire, the Magister Ludi. It is there that the past returns, demanding retribution. For every betrayal must be punished… ‘’There were grands jeux played in the Hagia Sophia, and in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and at the Western Wall. It is modern arrogance to imagine that the divinity we hope to touch through the grand jeu is better than, or even different to the deities of other religions. A young way to worship is not necessarily a better way; nor is it the only way.’’ ‘’We remake the world so that we can submit to it.’’ Bridget Collins has created a world that is claustrophobic, ruthless, secretive, yet enticing. Frighteningly so. A country that vaguely resembles France in an era that seems to fall between the 30s and 40s, is ruled by a ruthless version of an Orwellian government. Religion -especially Christianity- is persecuted, the believers are placed in the margin of society and women are seen as a commodity with few exceptions that are closely monitored and controlled. The atmosphere is full of threat and persecution, betrayal is the only way to advance. Through the eyes of a disgraced politician, a magister that has defied the adversities in her way, and a strange girl called the Rat, we dive into a world where a game is all there is and life and freedom have been labelled as expendable. ‘’Show weakness, and you’re doomed.’’ With its dragon laws, the mystery and vague setting, I was reminded of the world created in Gormenghast. I can’t describe the feeling of ‘’walking’’ down the nightly corridors or trying to grasp the concept and essence of the grand jeu. Collins took me on a journey through moonlight and silence, steps lit by the all-seeing moon in a place stuck in time. Night provides the perfect scenery, creeping in hiding places and keeping secrets that must not see the light of day. Secrecy is a major theme in this beautiful novel, reflecting the tempest of oppression and repressed feelings in a harrowing danse macabre. The dynamics between Claire and Leo are brilliantly depicted and Claire is a formidable, memorable character as is Rat whose haunting presence elevates the novel. From the mystery of winter to the magic of Midsummer’s Eve, this is a story that stays with us and transports us to a powerful ‘’what-if’’. ‘’Look at me, I can bleed without being wounded. I can empty myself again and again and again.’’ Many thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    I loved Bridget Collins’ adult debut The Binding so there was never any doubt that I would read her second adult offering and oooh was it gooooooood. To me Collins’ novels are all about the experience of reading. That journey. Somehow she manages to suck me into these worlds she creates, worlds almost like ours...but not quite. It’s difficult to describe what The Betrayals is about. I actually went into the read completely blind. I didn’t read any blurb, promotional matter etc. And I love that I I loved Bridget Collins’ adult debut The Binding so there was never any doubt that I would read her second adult offering and oooh was it gooooooood. To me Collins’ novels are all about the experience of reading. That journey. Somehow she manages to suck me into these worlds she creates, worlds almost like ours...but not quite. It’s difficult to describe what The Betrayals is about. I actually went into the read completely blind. I didn’t read any blurb, promotional matter etc. And I love that I didn’t. Because it meant that the book unfolded for me in the most natural of ways; I didn’t know what was coming, who was good, who was bad, what was up, what was down!! It was delicious just discovering this world and these characters for myself. The book is all about the Grand Jeu... and what is that exactly? Well that’s the brilliant part of this book, we never really know in black and white, only in abstract terms; its an ancient game that is of huge importance to society. It’s part maths, part music, part philosophy, part performance, part religion. I feel enough information is given throughout the story to envision what the Grand Jeu means to each of us as readers because as you read the book little glistening threads are woven together to create the elusive Grand Jeu; it’ll mean something unique to you on completion. However, if you like your explanations to be a little more literal you might struggle with the concept. As for the characters... prepare for unlikeable characters, determined characters, pompous characters, innocent characters ... I just loved how I went on a journey with each of the main characters. How by the end there was so much betrayal throughout the novel, and how as a reader you’re unsure if you should trust certain character motivations over others... The book primarily follows the character of Léo in two time periods. In the present day as a disgraced politician who finds himself sent to Montverre as punishment of sorts and to keep an eye on the new Magister Luidi there. Montverre is the school / university where the Grand Jeu is studied and the Magister Luidi is like an academic dean who oversees all the students’ learning. But their position is one that is assigned for life and has only ever been awarded to men who were accomplished scholars at Montverre as Montverre is a male only educational institute. In the present time period the Magister Luidi is a woman, Claire Dryden.... due to unforeseen deviousness and her manipulation of the hiring process if you are to believe the old white men in suits!!! Hence Léo needs to keep an eye on Claire. So we get the two points of view of these characters who are deeply suspicious... yet strangely drawn to each other. We are also given Léo’s point of view from when he was a student through his diaries. And sprinkled throughout are brief chapters from the point of view of a character simply called The Rat. Using all these characters and different perspectives the book explores the concepts of trust, betrayal, ego, humility, and love. All with a healthy dollop of political intrigue with a sprinkling of battling time-old misogyny. And it’s fantastic. The plot just draws you in. I kept wanting to know more and more about these characters, about what was unfolding around them. This is quite the slow burn read. It requires patience I feel, and also for the reader to take certain leaps of faith that they don’t know everything... and perhaps never will. But to me this was great. It felt unique, refreshing. I was never bored and was desperate to find out where these characters would all end up. I liked that the pace of the novel, though slow, felt purposeful. I liked the teasing of what was happening with the Grand Jeu in both time periods; word of the wise Léo isn’t always the most likeable of characters but I enjoyed that about him. His personality makes sense when you think about the theme represented by the book’s title. I was 100% invested in his two storylines and was eager to see how exactly the tragic events of the past had affected Léo in the present day; his rivalry with Carfax in the past .... AHHHH LOVE LOVE LOVE! And then there was all this uncertainty of the political climate in the present and as a reader you’re not sure if Léo has good intentions at heart or if he’s trying to save his own skin while condemning others to damnation. Claire is a more likeable character. I really admired her spunk and determination to achieve against the odds. She was always having to battle misogyny and prejudice, but did so with great sass and dignity. A truly compelling character. As for the Rat... I’m somewhat unsure. They’re the one character that I feel was underdeveloped. Much of their story is alluded to rather than defined, which I was okay with... but the climax of their storyline felt a bit rushed I think. I just needed there to be a little more oomph to it I guess. But a minor quibble indeed. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It shares some sensibilities with The Binding in that there is a continuing air of mystery woven throughout the plot, and Collins definitely likes bittersweet and quasi-tragic romances in her novels... which are also my jam so kudos to her for creating a whole new one for me to love here. A really great read for people who love taking a leap into the unknown. 4.5 stars *An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review* Publishing 12th November 2020, The Borough Press For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog Follow me on Twitter Friend me on Goodreads

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    At the end of the novel, Bridget Collins notes that the story, and particularly her Grand Jeu, was influenced by Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. Now if I'd remembered my university reading of that book, this one would have made a hell of a lot more sense. My Latin did, finally, come in handy when deciphering 'Magister Ludi' (Master/Teacher of the Game), but that's where my sense of accomplishment ended. The 'grand game' is a complex mix of music and math, philosophy, religion, and life itse At the end of the novel, Bridget Collins notes that the story, and particularly her Grand Jeu, was influenced by Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. Now if I'd remembered my university reading of that book, this one would have made a hell of a lot more sense. My Latin did, finally, come in handy when deciphering 'Magister Ludi' (Master/Teacher of the Game), but that's where my sense of accomplishment ended. The 'grand game' is a complex mix of music and math, philosophy, religion, and life itself, understood by the reader only in the abstract. Unlike us, the students and teachers at Montverre feel the power of the game, working to create the most intricate or clever version in competition with each other. So central is this process of creation that the game becomes more important than any character in the novel. But its inherent emptiness is alienating, and while that's a perfectly apt metaphor for the themes in the book, it's going to leave a lot of readers dissatisfied. There's so much mystery shovelled into this book that it burns all the emotion out. The Grand Jeu (no real explanation given), the Rat (evidence of a past mystery and a mystery in itself), the Party (some kind of fascist government who want something from the game, the school, and apparently to persecute christians), the death (who and why). Instead of coming together, each strand nullifies the others. The romantic element was disappointingly resolved, a beautifully depicted relationship developed in the first half of the book turned mundane by the end. Parts of the book are compelling, but it doesn't hold true throughout. ARC via Netgalley

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    The grand jeu is an inexplicable and indescribable game and the students of Montverre Academy are tasked with creating it. Leo is in his second year and has been given a second chance at creation but the game, for him, is already tinged with grief and guilt. Can the glory and greatness it also promises surpass these feelings? Claire is the only female tutor in this male, academic world and has to prove that despite her gender and tragic family history she is worthy of a place in this elite world. The grand jeu is an inexplicable and indescribable game and the students of Montverre Academy are tasked with creating it. Leo is in his second year and has been given a second chance at creation but the game, for him, is already tinged with grief and guilt. Can the glory and greatness it also promises surpass these feelings? Claire is the only female tutor in this male, academic world and has to prove that despite her gender and tragic family history she is worthy of a place in this elite world. Can she compete against the privileged males she mentors? And will these two individuals become allies or enemies, in their ambitious quests? This entire novel was an evocative infusion of gothic atmosphere and dark academia vibes. I adored the exploration of this mysterious setting and only wished the reader was able to garner more of an understanding of the academy and the games its students were tasked with creating. That being said, part of this book's charm was also its peculiar and ineffable qualities. Consistent intrigue and forever feeling a step removed from a true understanding of everything that occurred had me tearing through the pages to this novel's close. The characters too played their part in disallowing the reader to ever feel close to an understanding of their nature or their motives. Mysteries abounded and every figure that featured here was cloaked in their own share of them. I had a great time immersed in this dark mystery and can now confidently say that Collins is an author I can rely upon for a chilling and thrilling historical tale.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Waworga

    Wooow… this is so disappointing! I almost don’t want to believe this is the same author who wrote “The Binding” one of my fav standalone book on 2019, maybe the high expectation I put on this book is the “problem” why I didn’t enjoy this There are 4 POVs in this book (The Rat, The Magister Ludi, Leo and the past Leo) and I can only enjoyed 1 of them, the other 3 felt so unnecesarry or else… felt so bland and boring The plot is extremely slow with very descriptive writing style (esp The Rat’s POV) Wooow… this is so disappointing! I almost don’t want to believe this is the same author who wrote “The Binding” one of my fav standalone book on 2019, maybe the high expectation I put on this book is the “problem” why I didn’t enjoy this There are 4 POVs in this book (The Rat, The Magister Ludi, Leo and the past Leo) and I can only enjoyed 1 of them, the other 3 felt so unnecesarry or else… felt so bland and boring The plot is extremely slow with very descriptive writing style (esp The Rat’s POV), so many things / words are not explain well you just need to accept the way they are without knowing muchabout them, that makes my reading journey felt so painful This book inspired by “The Glass Bead Game” by Hermann Hesse so maybe I can enjoy this book if I already read that book, but since I haven’t read it.. the concept about “Grand Jeu’ felt so murky! The concept about this book is really promising about someone who need to beback to his old school and deal with his past, but in my opinion just not so well executed! So so sad I don’t enjoy this book I feel so "Betrayed" 🥲😖

  8. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    On my blog. Rep: bi mc, minor side character with bipolar disorder(?) CWs: mentions and descriptions of suicide Galley provided by publisher I wanted to read The Betrayals based on my love of The Binding. This too promised a historical fantasy with a slowburn plot and a romance at the centre. Great, I thought. I’m certain to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it. I definitely liked the story, namely the writing and worldbuilding, granted, but I liked it. I just didn’t like it as much as I was hoping to. Th On my blog. Rep: bi mc, minor side character with bipolar disorder(?) CWs: mentions and descriptions of suicide Galley provided by publisher I wanted to read The Betrayals based on my love of The Binding. This too promised a historical fantasy with a slowburn plot and a romance at the centre. Great, I thought. I’m certain to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it. I definitely liked the story, namely the writing and worldbuilding, granted, but I liked it. I just didn’t like it as much as I was hoping to. The story follows four threads: the Rat (who opens the story, but only becomes truly relevant later on), Léo in the present (a disgraced member of the governing party), Clare (the Magister Ludi, a teacher at Montverre), and Léo in the past (as a student). It sounds more complex than it is, really, because the Rat doesn’t really get a look in that much in part one, becoming more of a character in part two. What I loved about this book was the writing and worldbuilding. Bridget Collins excels at historical fantasies, those ones that lean more on the fantasy side than quite historical. Think C. L. Polk’s Kingston Cycle. And that was definitely the case here. I loved the world that was created, and the writing that built it was just beautiful. It was a book I wanted to savour, just to read that writing for a little while longer. Where I was a little more let down was in the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actively hate them. I just didn’t quite connect with them in the same way as I did in The Binding. Of the two main characters, I preferred Clare, obviously, but even so, I’m not sure I could tell you a whole lot about her as a character. She was a somewhat nebulous combination of grand jeu and… honestly I don’t know what. Nothing about her particularly stood out for me. Meanwhile, Léo was arrogant, a misogynist, and a member of a fascist-esque (if not full on fascist) party, meaning I found it very hard to like him at all. In fact, the only time I did like him was in the flashbacks, although they were tending towards tragedy and I could tell even as I read them. Also, while Léo did seem like he was starting to change, to go against the party line, it didn’t feel like it came fast enough, or extremely enough, for me to grow to like him. Which, really, is my next point: nothing truly compelling happens until a good 70% through. I don’t mean to keep harping on about The Binding, but in that one, for me, the first part hooked you and the second part revealed more, leading up to the third part. Here, there wasn’t really that hook until Emile showed up for the Midsummer Games. That is when the storylines started to converge (namely, the Rat’s with the rest of them). What kept me going with the book was the writing (which I cannot stress enough how much I loved) and the flashbacks via Léo’s diary. It was a character-driven plot but, while that worked in The Binding, where the scope of the world is very much limited to the characters, it didn’t really so much here, because there was a more expansive world. But, while this review may sound pretty negative, I did still like this book. And it has definitely cemented Bridget Collins as a go-to author for me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brooke - One Woman's Brief Book Reviews

    *www.onewomansbbr.wordpress.com *www.facebook.com/onewomansbbr **2.5 stars** The Betrayals by Bridget Collins. (2020). At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the 'grand jeu': an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo was once a student there but lost his passion following a violent tragedy. Now he is exiled there in disgrace with his political career in tatters. But it has changed, even allowing a woman, Claire, to serve in *www.onewomansbbr.wordpress.com *www.facebook.com/onewomansbbr **2.5 stars** The Betrayals by Bridget Collins. (2020). At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the 'grand jeu': an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo was once a student there but lost his passion following a violent tragedy. Now he is exiled there in disgrace with his political career in tatters. But it has changed, even allowing a woman, Claire, to serve in the 'grand jeu's' highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he's sure they have never met before. The bond between them is strengthening but they have both built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls... Okay, so I spent the majority of this book confused as to what the 'grand jeu' actually was. From what I gathered, it was a game of some kind that involved hand movements, math, poetry, music...but what it actually was, how it worked and what the purpose was, nope, no real clarification, argh! I honestly found it super frustrating and it distracted me from the storyline. On top of that, it is never clarified what year or location the story is set in. Some readers may not mind this ambiguity, unfortunately I am not that reader. Putting that aside ... the writing is good, really good. Even through my confusion I was being drawn in and wanted to keep going. Some chapters are from Léo's perspective when he was a student; I enjoyed the changing relationship between he and another student, Carafax, although I didn't really like Léo himself. In the current timeline I appreciated the difficulties experienced by Claire being the only female there who was clearly resented by others in this male dominated field. Overall: I think readers who are open to something different and don't mind a lot of ambiguity could really enjoy this book however I personally like more clarification and explanation when I read fantasy type novels.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mandy White (mandylovestoread)

    The Betrayals by Bridget Collins was my first read-a-long with Tandem Collective Global and I really enjoyed the interaction with my fellow readers. It was great to talk about what was happening and try to figure out the plot with others. We had a great group and some insightful conversations. This was a beautifully written book with a gorgeous cover. I was excited to dive in and read. I am glad I read with a group, otherwise I may have given up. This has to be one of the most frustrating books t The Betrayals by Bridget Collins was my first read-a-long with Tandem Collective Global and I really enjoyed the interaction with my fellow readers. It was great to talk about what was happening and try to figure out the plot with others. We had a great group and some insightful conversations. This was a beautifully written book with a gorgeous cover. I was excited to dive in and read. I am glad I read with a group, otherwise I may have given up. This has to be one of the most frustrating books that I have ever read. I spent most of the book trying to understand what was happening. All the talk of the grand jeu, the great game, and even after finishing I am not sure what it is! But I am glad that I kept going as the story did mostly come together. The vagueness of the location, era and the great game was not really for me, but it was an interesting read and took me outside of my comfort zone. Thanks to Harper Collins and Tandem Collective Global for sending me this book and having me along for the ride. I look forward to joining in with more read-a-longs.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Was this book intriguing? Yes. Did I know what was going on? No, not really. There were many interesting strands to this book but somehow they didn’t make a whole story. I finished the book feeling dissatisfied as a reader and disappointed as a fan of this author’s previous book. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Bridget Collins returns with an enchanting, original and multilayered story, which is even more enticing and alluring than The Binding. At Montverre, an ancient and elite academy hidden high in the mountains, society's best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu--the great game--an arcane and mysterious competition that combines music, art, math, poetry, and philosophy. Léo Martin once excelled at Monteverre, but lost his passion for scholarly pursuits after a violent tragedy. Bridget Collins returns with an enchanting, original and multilayered story, which is even more enticing and alluring than The Binding. At Montverre, an ancient and elite academy hidden high in the mountains, society's best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu--the great game--an arcane and mysterious competition that combines music, art, math, poetry, and philosophy. Léo Martin once excelled at Monteverre, but lost his passion for scholarly pursuits after a violent tragedy. He turned to politics instead, and became a rising star in the ruling party, until a small act of conscience cost him his career. Now, he has been exiled back to Monteverre, his fate uncertain. But this rarified world of learning he once loved is not the same place Léo remembers. Once the exclusive bastion of men, Montverre is now run by a woman: Claire Dryden, also known as Magister Ludi, the head of the grand game. At first, Léo feels an odd attraction to the Magister--a mysterious, eerily familiar connection--though he's sure they've never met before. As the legendary Midsummer Game approaches--the climax of the academy's year--long-buried secrets rise to the surface and centuries-old traditions are shockingly overturned. Collins is one hell of a writer. Her prose is beautiful and captivating. She paints this wonderfully stark world of an alter I’ve 1930s so well. The characters are interesting, and the way the story meanders back and forth through the years is brilliantly done. The worldbuilding is nothing short of exquisite and this is a book full of wonderful magic and deadly politics. A special hybrid of fantasy and historical fiction, it is a sumptuous and darkly atmospheric; a story substantial in its sincerity and stunning in its writing. Collins's world is lush, richly-imagined and one I really didn't want to leave. This is a breathtakingly spectacular novel and rates as one of my favourites of 2020. The plot is a slow burn for the first half, which I enjoyed, and from then on it gathered pace a little. The perfect pacing is matched by the equally perfect storytelling ability of the author; it's rare you come across a more exceptional portrayal of time and place. An utterly charming and nuanced story with all the makings of a bestseller that captivated me from first page to last. This is a book you experience rather than merely read. Unforgettable. Highly recommended. Many thanks to The Borough Press for an ARC.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    DNF While I did have some issues with certain aspects of The Binding, I did find it to be an absorbing read. The Betrayals promises a similarly generically historical setting with a far less compelling story (I had to slog my way through the first four chapters of this book). There is an overuse of the words 'grand jeu', so that these words are used indiscriminately, appearing in weird contexts were they don't even make sense (feel free to disagree). Also, I was irritated by the belated explanati DNF While I did have some issues with certain aspects of The Binding, I did find it to be an absorbing read. The Betrayals promises a similarly generically historical setting with a far less compelling story (I had to slog my way through the first four chapters of this book). There is an overuse of the words 'grand jeu', so that these words are used indiscriminately, appearing in weird contexts were they don't even make sense (feel free to disagree). Also, I was irritated by the belated explanation—if we can even call it an explanation—of what this 'grand jeu' is (especially considering that up to that point the words 'grand jeu' have been used incessantly!). And why just not call it the 'great game'? Because using French words lends an air of mystique? While other readers may find this to be a genuinely intriguing read, I'm not all that taken by the novel's forced air of mystery. The writing too left something to be desired (with phrases such as "her heart trembled in her bones as if they're hollow" and "her heart is beating so hard the rest of her feels unreal: she could be floating in space, a ghost with a thundering pulse"). If you unreservedly loved The Binding chances are you will like The Betrayals far more than I did.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eilidh

    *3.5 stars* The Betrayals tells the tale of the ongoings at the all male school Montverre, that practices the beloved grand jeu, meanwhile exploring outside impact on the school from an increasingly hostile society. We follow Lèo Martin (a disgraced politician and former school pupil of Montverre), Magister Dryden (the first female teacher in the history of Montverre) Lèo’s journal entries from his school days and occasionally from the character the Rat. The Betrayals is an intricately composed *3.5 stars* The Betrayals tells the tale of the ongoings at the all male school Montverre, that practices the beloved grand jeu, meanwhile exploring outside impact on the school from an increasingly hostile society. We follow Lèo Martin (a disgraced politician and former school pupil of Montverre), Magister Dryden (the first female teacher in the history of Montverre) Lèo’s journal entries from his school days and occasionally from the character the Rat. The Betrayals is an intricately composed story, that for all its brilliance, the writing was hard to read. I ended up having to resort to the audiobook to persevere, which revived my interest in the story. I absorbed and understood what was happening more than I did solely reading the kindle. The narrators did a really good job. I 100% recommend the audiobook for a better experience of the story. The novel tells the tale of elitism and a growing dystopian government prosecuting certain factions of society that aren’t the wealthy, Catholics or men. It’s infecting infrastructure, such as Montverre, with their conservative views and threatening the essence of the fantastical world within its walls. This made the character Magister Dryden very interesting and very important, as she’s the only woman who teaches at the school. She goes up against misogyny time and time again, where many male characters count her extremely lucky to get where she’s got and they challenge her authority and resent it too, purely because she’s a woman. It was actually rather sickening to read. The entitlement and superiority Lèo feels and actually projects onto Magister Dryden was infuriating. So, safe to safe, Lèo’s demeanour and conduct throughout the book, toward Dryden and another character, Carfax, is rather sickening. He’s arrogant - like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast level - and is not a likeable character. Yet he plays an important role in one of the book’s biggest themes: mental health. The book alludes to and explores a variety of mental health. The sense of loss of a loved one and the grief left behind, deteriorating mental health, the impact and consequence of bullying and subsequent suicide . All of these points in the overarching theme were handled and established extremely well, where when appropriate and provoked enough, had my heart heavy and my blood boiling. Beyond this, everything else is purposefully vague throughout the read. To be intriguing? To be irritating? Well, it’s a bit of both. There comes a point when I feel like there are some books that are published with a vision of what the reader’s experience is imagined to be, versus what they’ll actually experience. It’s very difficult because it’s all very subjective, until it isn’t. Until it’s something like The Betrayals. The Betrayals, not to be too grandiose, betrays it’s reader in its difficult readability. It shouldn’t be so hard to connect to a story that has so much in its meat... but yet it is. In fact, there’s arguably too much, with the Rat’s perspective really not needed other than to pull off a plot move. Other than that, the Rat was redundant. It’s so infuriatingly disappointing, especially when I think back to Emmet and Lucien of The Binding (and many other strands of that story too), and how I fell so hard in love. With The Betrayals, I feel cold toward it, and then confused because I know I shouldn’t, but I do. I say all of that because, The Betrayals should have been much better received by me, especially when I am in awe of just how much Collins put into the story. But it lacked soul between its pages and an overall charisma it sorely needed, which I know for a fact Collins is capable of (The Binding). The Betrayals missed that mark for me unfortunately. However, the bit we’ve all been waiting for - the grand jeu. The grand jeu - at the heart of the plot - is undefined throughout the entire book. ... Or is it? Collins has masterfully created something that is what you prefer it to be, providing an interactive element for all readers, to contribute their own imagination alongside reading the story. I personally imagined it as a metaphor for how one lives (plays) their life. I wasn’t initially impressed at first, but the more the story goes on and I became familiar with it, I found it endearing. Collins informs us who don’t know in the acknowledgements that the grand jeu is inspired by The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. The Betrayals is a deeply subjective experience: to all readers of my review, it’s a personal conclusion as to whether the pay off is worth the work. For this reader, the payoff was most certainly worth the wait. The distant and slow pace is a necessary evil to appreciate this clever story that is a true masterclass of unwrapping a beguiling mystery. I never saw the twists, which was thoroughly delightful and made the book entirely worthwhile. Although, the sorrowful ending sadly took the jubilant feel from the climax, which was disappointing as I felt a more upbeat feel was needed after the leaden bleak weight throughout. Nonetheless, The Betrayals is one of those books that lingers in the mind, on and on. It works on you, like a kind of hypnotic mesmerised effect. It wasn’t perfect, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was certainly thought provoking about the world we live in and the world we don’t, which will stay with me for some time to come. It’s an extremely distinct yet enjoyable story to read from a wonderful and sleek imagination that leaves me eager to see what Bridget Collins cooks up next. Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review. 🌺🕰

  15. 4 out of 5

    ♡ jules ♡

    ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley. [screeches into the fucking sun]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    The Binding by Bridget Collins was a standout release for me and as is the natural order of things, this second adult release from Bridget Collins was always going to have a heavy amount of expectation attached to it. The similarity between these two novels stops at the gorgeously coordinated covers. The Betrayals is a very different read to The Binding, another highly imaginative and uniquely crafted story, yes, but not quite as easy to get wrapped up in – for me, at least. Everything within The The Binding by Bridget Collins was a standout release for me and as is the natural order of things, this second adult release from Bridget Collins was always going to have a heavy amount of expectation attached to it. The similarity between these two novels stops at the gorgeously coordinated covers. The Betrayals is a very different read to The Binding, another highly imaginative and uniquely crafted story, yes, but not quite as easy to get wrapped up in – for me, at least. Everything within The Betrayals is a little bit on the obscure side. The era is not disclosed (I couldn’t even get a bead on it, although the publisher’s website has it listed as historical fiction), the location is not identified (although by deduction I’m guessing ‘somewhere in France’ but this is not confirmed anywhere in the novel), and despite my best intentions, I just still, after finishing, have no idea what the Grand Jeu even was; perhaps I am suffering from a severe lack of imagination, I don’t know, but I just couldn’t envisage what it actually was. I couldn’t see how it was performed, or played out, or even written. In this particular aspect, I think there was possibly a crossover with the sort of themes you see popping up in YA fiction, but in this case, targeted specifically to adults. The author mentions in her author note that her grand jeu was inspired by another novel containing a game such as this; I haven’t read, much less heard of that novel, so in terms of visualisation, that did nothing to help me. While these factors didn’t give me any reason to abandon the novel, they did lead me to taking much longer than normal to get through it. It was like each of these unknown factors presented a barrier to get through. I really do like to know the when and where of what I’m reading, and in truth, perhaps this novel should have been billed as fantasy rather than historical fiction, for the ‘game’ does seem to fall into that realm of storytelling. Anyway, moving on from all that. I did actually still enjoy the novel overall. This is entirely owing to the way in which Bridget Collins writes. She crafts her characters with depth and presents all aspects of them with authenticity: their flaws, their strengths, their morals, their talents. Likewise, her story plays out with just the right amount of tension, intrigue, and mystery, clues laid down for the reader at key points, some things taking their time to be revealed, others coming swiftly and with shock for the reader. In terms of quality of writing, you can’t fault her. She knows how to tell an unconventional love story, and also knows how to take it to the next level, making her story, and the essence of it, about so much more than the relationship between the key players. I think that if readers of The Binding go into this with adjusted expectations, they should be able to enjoy it in its own right. Bear in mind that it’s an entirely different sort of story, and think more along the lines of fantasy than historical magical realism, and you should find it to be enjoyable and intriguing. I look forward to seeing where Bridget Collins takes us next.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    I enjoyed this book.....even more than I enjoyed The Binding!! Enigmatic, unique, beautiful prose, intriguing characters that just sucked me in from the very first chapter. The mysterious 'Grand Jeu' is never fully explained throughout the book and although I am none the wiser at the end of the book than I was at the beginning, the mystery of the 'Grand Jeu', for me, only added to the atmospheric intrigue of this book. I can see it being a 'Marmite' book, you'll either love it or hate it! I absolu I enjoyed this book.....even more than I enjoyed The Binding!! Enigmatic, unique, beautiful prose, intriguing characters that just sucked me in from the very first chapter. The mysterious 'Grand Jeu' is never fully explained throughout the book and although I am none the wiser at the end of the book than I was at the beginning, the mystery of the 'Grand Jeu', for me, only added to the atmospheric intrigue of this book. I can see it being a 'Marmite' book, you'll either love it or hate it! I absolutely loved it! Definitely one of the best books I have read this year!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vee

    (p64) I think if I ever see the words 'grand jeu' again I may just scream. This was a buddy read with a fellow Vee, but we were both shocked by how different this story is in comparison with Bridget's previous book, The Binding. This was a mess, and was trying way to hard to be mysterious and articulate which just fell flat. (p64) I think if I ever see the words 'grand jeu' again I may just scream. This was a buddy read with a fellow Vee, but we were both shocked by how different this story is in comparison with Bridget's previous book, The Binding. This was a mess, and was trying way to hard to be mysterious and articulate which just fell flat.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Janet Brown

    I liked Bridget Collins' first book for adults, The Binding, very much. It was an excellent example of how to do intelligent yet accessible historical/fantasty fiction: complex and gripping, with great characters who the reader immediately cared about, and brilliant world building. So I was excited to be given the opportunity to read The Betrayals by the publisher and NetGalley and was sure I'd be in for a treat. Sadly, I was disappointed. The Betrayals was needlessly dense and wore its learning I liked Bridget Collins' first book for adults, The Binding, very much. It was an excellent example of how to do intelligent yet accessible historical/fantasty fiction: complex and gripping, with great characters who the reader immediately cared about, and brilliant world building. So I was excited to be given the opportunity to read The Betrayals by the publisher and NetGalley and was sure I'd be in for a treat. Sadly, I was disappointed. The Betrayals was needlessly dense and wore its learning oh so heavily (when I read in the afterword that Collins was inspired by The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse, the pretentious philosophising of the 'grand jeu' fell into place for me). More importantly, the characters ran a gamut from so deeply unpleasant I wanted to push them off the battlements of the school, to 'merely' miserable and irritating. Reviews for The Betrayals seem to be split between people who felt very similarly to me, and those who loved it, so it's obviously very much a marmite book. Sadly, it was not for me. I got such strong vibes of “the author went to Cambridge and she wants you to know it” that when I got to the author bio stating “Bridget Collins went to Kings College, Cambridge” I just rolled my eyes because of course she did. (As an aside, it makes me laugh that people always have to tell you they went to Oxbridge. You don’t tend to get author bios saying “Joe Bloggs went to De Montfort University” do you?)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    At thirty-two and the son of a scrapyard owner, Léo Martin, has risen to the illustrious heights of Minister for Culture after graduating from all-male Montverre, an exclusive national academy that is centred around honing excellence in the country’s national game: the grand jeu. An ill-advised policy disagreement sees Léo cut adrift and exiled to his alma mater with a thinly veiled threat that the government heavies are watching him. None too pleased to be back given the memories of his fierces At thirty-two and the son of a scrapyard owner, Léo Martin, has risen to the illustrious heights of Minister for Culture after graduating from all-male Montverre, an exclusive national academy that is centred around honing excellence in the country’s national game: the grand jeu. An ill-advised policy disagreement sees Léo cut adrift and exiled to his alma mater with a thinly veiled threat that the government heavies are watching him. None too pleased to be back given the memories of his fiercest classroom competitor’s suicide, Léo is even more shocked to discover that the academy has appointed its first ever female teacher in spiky Magister Ludi, Claire Dryden. Fearing he has been sent as a government spy with desires to close the academy Claire is overtly hostile and already knows far too much about the man in her midst whilst Léo wrestles with a nagging sense of familiarity regarding whether they have previously met. Imaginative and well-plotted the principle plot focuses on the growing connection, chemistry and tension between Léo and Claire and is supported by not only the unravelling tragedy that marred Léo’s second year as a student but also the government’s anti-Christian policy and Claire’s own struggle to create a worthy Midsummer Game. As the novel cuts back and forth between Léo and Claire’s individual perspectives a third in introduced in the form of Léo’s student journal revealing more of his tumultuous emotions leading up to the suicide of his frenemy, Carfax, and the events that he has struggled to move on from. The specific nature of the grand jeu is shrouded in mystery but is a combination of maths and music and whilst I didn’t find the novel entirely compelling given the constant reference to it and my lack of clarity about it I certainly appreciated the ebb and flow in Léo’s relationship with Claire, complete with misunderstandings and suspected betrayals. Both of these flawed characters fascinated me and Bridget Collins’s sensitive and gradual exposure of their vulnerabilities kept me intrigued. As the story slowly reveals that both of these complex characters have built their lives around long-standing lies a momentous and involving denouement sees everything change for both of them.. Gloriously readable and watch out for the supporting character of the wise Rat who has her one equally powerful story to tell with its very own sting in the tail!

  21. 4 out of 5

    s

    Thank you to Bridget Collins, HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction The Borough Press and NetGalley for the chance to read The Betrayals. I would recommend this to: My fantasy-loving colleague. “There’s a silence, like the gap between two ticks of a clock. Then she turns away, unable to look at his face. Léo was once a student at Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, where students learn an arcane and mysterious game. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning Thank you to Bridget Collins, HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction The Borough Press and NetGalley for the chance to read The Betrayals. I would recommend this to: My fantasy-loving colleague. “There’s a silence, like the gap between two ticks of a clock. Then she turns away, unable to look at his face. Léo was once a student at Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, where students learn an arcane and mysterious game. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning. Claire is the first woman to serve as Montverre’s Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses a connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before. As secrets whisper in the walls and the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, will Léo discover the truth about Claire – and will that truth destroy them both?” I really did enjoy this book, but while I was gripped from the first page, I can’t deny that I was also somewhat bewildered throughout! I can be a bit ‘literal’ and trying to get to grips with what exactly the mysterious Grand Jeu actually is would be like trying to paint a picture of a smell. There’s no getting hold of what it really is all about, but we aren’t supposed to understand – it’s other worldly, mystical, made up of music and maths and ‘performance’ – a very abstract concept of ‘game’ that we never pin down. I soon stopped really trying to find rules within the description and just went with it. I do love Bridget’s writing and also enjoyed The Binding, but in this book I couldn’t ‘see’ the characters as I often can when reading – I couldn’t place them at a time in history, or imagine their dress/fashion etc, but again that is part of the enigmatic nature of the novel. In the end my mind had placed them as almost ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in my search for an image of the characters. Because of the missing detail, I felt a little like I had missed something at first, as though I had started to watch a series but had missed the first episode, but once I got into the swing of the book I stopped dwelling on that. The Montverre school was given more description and I envisaged a sort of remote, somewhat crumbling Oxford University. We open with a chapter on ‘rat’, and in a way I would have liked to hear a little more from her. Following the introduction we didn’t hear about her for quite a while and I started to wonder how she fit in to the overall scheme, but it all became clear later on. I would have liked to know a little more about how she and her fellow fugitive ended up. Now onto the main characters – they’re flawed, and tangled up in the mysterious and competitive ‘game’, as well as politics and a fight for survival in a prejudiced environment. They were hard to ‘like’ exactly, but none the less we championed them towards trying to overcome their personal, and joint challenges. I loved how Collins scattered just enough breadcrumbs throughout to have forseen the twist – it’s a euphoric moment when you read a revelation and think ‘I KNEW it!!’ (although we could never be sure of course), thanks to clever, but oh-so-subtle hints interspersed within the bigger scheme. I loved the writing style, just as in The Binding, while this is quite a different read. Would a preface have helped me get into the book faster? Possibly – I personally would have benefited from understanding a time period, and to have some clue about the great game, even if all that told us was that we’d never really understand it! That said, I'm sure there are many readers who will love the book even more for its esoteric quality – absorbed by the mysteries themselves rather than distracted by trying to solve them! All of this in NO WAY spoiled my enjoyment of the book, but explains my relationship with it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elle K

    I have absolutely zero idea how to review this one. CW: suicide I wanna preface by saying although I didn't enjoy this one, a lot of people definitely are enjoying it! If you think this is your kinda thing I'd urge you to check out more positive reviews cause I think me and this book just didn't vibe well together. Ultimately, I've barely any idea what this book was about. Go read the description. There's a school, yes. And a love, or loves, sort of? There's a game that is never explained but is I have absolutely zero idea how to review this one. CW: suicide I wanna preface by saying although I didn't enjoy this one, a lot of people definitely are enjoying it! If you think this is your kinda thing I'd urge you to check out more positive reviews cause I think me and this book just didn't vibe well together. Ultimately, I've barely any idea what this book was about. Go read the description. There's a school, yes. And a love, or loves, sort of? There's a game that is never explained but is entirely central to the book. There's a totalitarian government coming into power, but is never explored. This was the slowest book I've ever read. I would have DNF'd it if it wasn't an ARC, and if people hadn't spoken so highly of The Binding before this. It was painfully boring often, the pretentiously vague tone throughout was stifling, and with no great payoff at the end to cushion the blow. I guessed the big ~twist. Miscommunication was a heavily-used trope. Mental illness is used as a central, yet somehow very dismissed, plot point. I will say that occasionally it grabbed my attention, just enough to keep me going, but there were about three different points where I strongly felt as though the story should be wrapping up - the first of these being before the halfway mark. I'm sorry I didn't love this one, I really wanted to. There just wasn't enough substance to make this a story worth reading for me. I feel like you can have a long book OR a slow-burn book, but having both with consistently little payoff is just overwhelmingly dull and unsatisfying. I wish I could at least write more about what the book was about but honestly, I feel as though I was never told myself. Thanks to the author, NetGalley, and Harper Collins for the ARC. To be published in the UK 12/11/20.

  23. 5 out of 5

    thewoollygeek (tea, cake, crochet & books)

    I was so excited to receive an arc of this I think I squealed, I love Bridget Collins work and this was no exception. An engrossing read, beautifully written, the writing is so completely amazing I just fall into her words. Magical and spellbinding, the characters and story will draw you in and leave you wantIng more and turning pages late into the night. Absolutely amazing and one of my favourites this year. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Bridget Collins's first novel for adults, The Binding, was one of my favourite reads of 2019. Its structure worked so perfectly with its themes, and it combined YA energy with quieter, more reflective prose. Her follow-up, The Betrayals, is both more uneven and more ambitious. Inspired by Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, it imagines an isolated school, Montverre, where young men train in the mysterious art of the 'grand jeu', a combination of mathematics, music and philosophy, writing their Bridget Collins's first novel for adults, The Binding, was one of my favourite reads of 2019. Its structure worked so perfectly with its themes, and it combined YA energy with quieter, more reflective prose. Her follow-up, The Betrayals, is both more uneven and more ambitious. Inspired by Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, it imagines an isolated school, Montverre, where young men train in the mysterious art of the 'grand jeu', a combination of mathematics, music and philosophy, writing their own games and observing others. (The precise nature of the 'grand jeu' is, cleverly, never fully revealed to the reader, and we're allowed to imagine what exactly it looks like). The narrative is principally divided into three alternating voices: that of Claire, the 'Magister Ludi' or 'Master of the Game', who is the first woman to oversee Montverre; ex-politician Léo Martin, who has been exiled to Montverre for (weakly) opposing an increasingly totalitarian government; and ten-year-old diary entries from the time when Léo was a student at the school. Structurally, The Betrayals doesn't work nearly as well as The Binding. The only chapters I found truly captivating before the midpoint were Léo's diary entries - told in first-person, they had a charm and immediacy that the other narratives lacked. About halfway through, the diary entries start to interweave more closely with Claire and Léo's present-day narratives, and the plot becomes totally gripping. However, I was still baffled by the other stray narrative voice in this book, that of the Rat, a girl who secretly lives within the walls of Montverre after her illegitimate birth. I skimmed her chapters, which I found cliched, and felt they could be entirely excised from the novel without really affecting it, even though she does start to have more impact on the plot near the end. Nevertheless, I think Collins has, once again, pulled off something special here, even if The Betrayals isn't quite as good as her adult debut. The way she writes about the grand jeu is really memorable, and I loved how Claire and Léo's story was pulled together in the final pages. This book reminded me quite strongly of Elisabeth Thomas's Catherine House - which I know has been quite divisive but which I personally liked a lot - with its arcane rites and obsessive scholars. It's a beautifully atmospheric and original read, and I'm looking forward to whatever Collins writes next. I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher for review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Nothing about this narrative sat right with me at all. [EDIT] In the months since I posted this tiny review, I've been going back and forth on whether I should elaborate. Well! I've decided that I'm finally going to. I began feeling strange about the way this book was written at about the time when Claire started mentioning her womanly womanly ways and how she bleeeeeds like a woman because she's a woman and women bleed. It initially felt like a very heavy-handed method of highlighting her othern Nothing about this narrative sat right with me at all. [EDIT] In the months since I posted this tiny review, I've been going back and forth on whether I should elaborate. Well! I've decided that I'm finally going to. I began feeling strange about the way this book was written at about the time when Claire started mentioning her womanly womanly ways and how she bleeeeeds like a woman because she's a woman and women bleed. It initially felt like a very heavy-handed method of highlighting her otherness. Useful, perhaps, in smaller doses, but the way this was written felt like being constantly smacked over the head with a hammer with the venus symbol painted on it. Also, Bridget Collins, are you okay? Is this really your lived experience of menstruation? I would consider going to a doctor if so. This poor character must be anaemic by now! This is the kind of description of menstruation I would expect from somebody who has never experienced it nor had the wherewithal to ask anyone who has experienced it (or even just googled it!). The whole plot of the book, also, gave me pause. Spoilers ahead! When the pieces started to be put together, the image the reader has for a while is that Claire is the sister of Carfax, Léo's schooltime love. The ever-constant comparisons between Claire and Carfax in these scenes felt extremely uncomfortable on a first read through. It seemed very... odd, to have a bisexual protagonist fall for a female character on the basis that they heavily resemble their male sibling. I don't necessarily think that a plot with that premise is inherently an issue, but the way it was handled in this narrative left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt questionable. Of course, though, the twist in the tale is that Claire IS actually the Carfax that Léo fell in love with, having disguised herself as her bipolar brother to attend his elite school. Thank you, by the way, Bridget Collins, for the delightful handling of a mentally ill barely-a-character who commits suicide to further his sister's personal angst-fest. A charming decision, honestly. Really sensitive. The decision to have Claire BE Carfax sat very strangely with me. The way it was handled felt very off. The trope of 'woman disguises herself as a man to attend something she wouldn't be able to as a woman' is as old as time, and in this scenario felt extremely trite and uninspired. Perhaps if there had been any nuance whatsoever in regards to how the narrative interacted with gender, instead of the heavy-handed mess that we got, this plot line could have worked better. Imagine my surprise (ha) when, on the hunch I picked up from the phrasing in this book, I checked Bridget Collins' 'following' page on Twitter, to find it rife with TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). Of course, I am familiar with death of the author, and separating the art from the artist. Heaven knows, one learns enough about that reading classical literature. But can that be successful when the dogwhistles of gender essentialism and transgender exclusion have seeped through a work like a viscous, oily stain? I would argue not. Perhaps for some people it is possible to ignore the blatancy of this, but unfortunately for me it was the final damning nail in the coffin of a book that had already gone far beyond the limits of my taste. It's a shame, as The Binding was a book with a fascinating premise, and the complexity of the plot in The Betrayals was still interesting to read, but there is unfortunately no way I will be considering reading any new Bridget Collins books in the future after this mess.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Going to be honest here, this one was a struggle to get through. The Betrayals is the second novel I’ve read by Bridget Collins, and it was more disappointing than The Binding. For starters, I found the world-building incredibly lacking. The entire novel centers around something called a 'grand jeu,' though it never once explains what that means or entails. It seems like a sort of musical/interpretive dance/scholarly (?) composition/production/output, but I genuinely could not tell you. Students Going to be honest here, this one was a struggle to get through. The Betrayals is the second novel I’ve read by Bridget Collins, and it was more disappointing than The Binding. For starters, I found the world-building incredibly lacking. The entire novel centers around something called a 'grand jeu,' though it never once explains what that means or entails. It seems like a sort of musical/interpretive dance/scholarly (?) composition/production/output, but I genuinely could not tell you. Students at an all-male academy study this grand jeu and compete against each other to create the best...grand jeu. There is also an extremely clunky political atmosphere in the novel, which seems to take place in a sort of alternate 1930s Europe. The 'Party,' led by 'The Old Man,' rules over the region, and the main character Léo is a disgraced former head of cultural affairs whom the Party banishes to the grand jeu academy, his former school. The Party discriminates against Christians (no explanation here as to why) and is obsessed with nationalism and cultural unity. I cannot see how this was not a loose reimagining of the late Weimar era and the rise of the Nazi Party -- it so blatantly replaced Jewish people with Christians and the 'Old Man' was so obviously a Hitler-esque demagogue. As a student, Léo fell in love with his former rival, another talented student, who died at the end of their term. Upon returning to the school, he sees that his former crush's sister is now the head of the school, and they begin to kindle a connection. I won't spoil anything more, but I will say I was expecting canon queer content and was disappointed at the route it took. Also there was a girl who lived in the walls of the school and called herself The Rat and I have no more to say about that. 0.5/5: If this were not an ARC, this would have been a DNF for me. It is not well-written, the world and plot is inscrutable, the changing POV chapters provide nothing of note, the characters are not fleshed out nor likeable, the grand jeu is completely incomprehensible, and the weird parallels to Nazi Germany are super uncomfortable and just weird. I really wanted to give this a chance, but it was not good at all. It seems that some fans of dark academia are enjoying this, but for me it failed on all levels. It read like a draft rather than a completed book. The most frustrating part was that some plot points showed slivers of promise, but it failed on every front for me. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arlette Krijgsman

    EDIT: In hindsight, this book is about loving people. Not genders, not the outside, but the person. There's much more to say about this book that I can't say because it won't make sense, but that's the core of it, I think, and the heart, that you can love someone based on a connection and that much may change, that much is allowed to change, and fault and mistakes and miscommunications are allowed, but that at the heart of everything, you fall in love with SOMEONE. Just a someone, not a man or a EDIT: In hindsight, this book is about loving people. Not genders, not the outside, but the person. There's much more to say about this book that I can't say because it won't make sense, but that's the core of it, I think, and the heart, that you can love someone based on a connection and that much may change, that much is allowed to change, and fault and mistakes and miscommunications are allowed, but that at the heart of everything, you fall in love with SOMEONE. Just a someone, not a man or a woman or a blonde or a redhead, or a tall or a short person, or whatever attribute there is but their soul and who they are. And if you can capture that in a book I think you might be very proud of yourself. This had everything I wanted but I need lots more.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    It’s the 1930’s Leo Martin has worked his way up. Born a son of a scrap yard owner he became the Minister of Culture after graduating from the prestigious academy Montverre, where the scholars play a game called the Grand jeu. Honing the skills of Mathematics, philosophy, music and religion. But after disagreeing some polices; he is exiled back to Montverre. The story delves back into past when he first became a student at the academy and built his reputation and passed with flying colours. Earn It’s the 1930’s Leo Martin has worked his way up. Born a son of a scrap yard owner he became the Minister of Culture after graduating from the prestigious academy Montverre, where the scholars play a game called the Grand jeu. Honing the skills of Mathematics, philosophy, music and religion. But after disagreeing some polices; he is exiled back to Montverre. The story delves back into past when he first became a student at the academy and built his reputation and passed with flying colours. Earning a gold medal for his work. And the difference of his present days at the academy. Thank you, Harper Collins, and NetGalley fer a copy of The Betrayals by Bridget Collins. I love The Binding, so I was looking forward to reading this. Unfortunately, though I could not finish this book. Don’t get me wrong this is is not a bad book. It is beautifully written, and others liked it But, I found it slow and I don’t think I was the target audience for this book. I did not find this subject of this book interesting. Three stars from me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    sweet peas

    THE COVER!! and the premise?? can't wait for this to be one of my favourite 2020 reads 😌👊 P.S.: The Binding 🤝 The Betrayals (beautiful covers squad) THE COVER!! and the premise?? can't wait for this to be one of my favourite 2020 reads 😌👊 P.S.: The Binding 🤝 The Betrayals (beautiful covers squad)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    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 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 *

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