cover image The Binding

The Binding

Bridget Collins. Morrow, $26.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-283809-4

Collins’s solid first adult novel (following several YA novels) is a haunted, Dickensian fantasia. At the story’s outset, teenage Emmett is a farmer’s son in an alternate England at an indeterminate point in the past whose mind is riddled with gaps due to an unspecified illness. He receives a letter that calls him for an apprenticeship with a bookbinder, Seredith, who’s reputed to be a witch. Emmett quickly discovers that Seredith is not your run-of-the-mill bookbinder: she draws traumatic memories out of people’s minds and hides them away in books, thereby removing the memories from their minds. The first client Emmett meets is a man named Lucian Darnay; their encounters unsettle and even enrage both of them, but neither knows why. Emmett eventually discovers there is a book with his name on it, and it holds an essential secret about him. The relationship between Emmett and Lucian plays out satisfyingly, but the novel suffers from portentous conversations and a few plot points that the characters don’t realistically react to. Emmett is a YA protagonist, too—sullen, reluctant, wrapped in victimhood. This is an enjoyable novel for readers of any age, but the story remains YA at its heart. (Apr.)