The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Posted On 14 January 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Didn’t Quite Work for Me

BetrayalsThe Betrayals is a book that I part read and part listened to and I will say before starting this review that I do love the way that Bridget Collins writes.  She has a way of instilling her works with so much atmosphere that even though the story wasn’t quite my ‘thing’ I still wanted to continue reading.

This is a novel with a historic feel although I’m not entirely sure the year in which this takes place.  We begin by making the acquaintance of Léo Martin, a disgraced politician.  Basically Léo had the temerity to disagree with one of the party lines and as a result finds himself demoted to a backsticks position that actually involves a return to his old school.  Montverre is an old school academy where bright young things pitch their wits against each other in an old fashioned game known as the Grand Jeu.  Léo left the school after a tragedy and his return now sets in train a strange unwinding of the past and some startling revelations along the way.

This is a story with a few POVs.  Obviously Léo.  Léo has become complacent over the years, used to his own importance and lulled, in fact, into thinking that his opinions matter much more than they do.  He’s forgotten to keep his head down and is now facing the outcome of his own overblown self importance.  In fairness to Léo he is actually making a stand against a party line that is very harsh and his removal from office gives him time to stand back and see just how extreme things have become.  The politics here are not particularly named but there is an almost fascist feel to the place as though things are on the brink of change, tolerance is low and there’s an underlying current of fear and suspicion.  We also have Léo’s pov from his days as a student told through the pages of a journal that he wrote at the time and so from this you would be right in thinking that the story does jump back and forth in order for us to discover what happened way back when.  The third pov is Magister Ludi – this is the highest office that can be held at Montverre and is currently held by a woman called Claire Dryden.  As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that this shocking admission of a female into a very male centred world and a much sought after position came about through some sleight of hand and it would be an understatement to say that not all the old bastions within the Academy are happy with the ways things have panned out.  Finally, a character known as the Rat – a very unusual perspective and one that I won’t elaborate on here for fear of spoilers.

So, what I liked about this first.  I loved the writing.  As I mentioned above Collins is really amazing at setting the tone and The Betrayals is brimming over with atmosphere.  On top of that I am a little bit of a sucker for any story that’s set within the walls of a school or other learning establishment and the one here is a grand old building with plenty of dusty corridors, dark spaces and secret histories.  There is also a lovely slow reveal of past secrets that went in a direction that was surprisingly and happily unexpected.

What didn’t work too well for me was a combination of wanting more clarity on the grand jeu and what the school was actually about and an overall feeling of not only missing something fundamental along the way but also that the plot didn’t really live up to it’s promise somehow.  I’m not really phrasing that very well but for me it felt like there was going to be a lot more substance to this than the actual outcome left me feeling. Again, I think this is probably down to me not picking up an underlying message or perhaps expecting there to be more to this than was actually intended.

Overall, although this one didn’t totally win me over I would still not hesitate to pick up more books by this author.  She has a style of writing that really works for me and so even though the content for this one didn’t work it’s magic I remain only too happy to read more books by her in the future.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

Mr Rating 3 of 5 stars