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…
This is the part where I usually add in my own brief summary of the book, and whilst I loved this book, I have just finished it and have no way to explain it. It is a book you should go into blind, it might not be for you if you’re not a fan of open endings. But if you’re willing to enter blindly, you will be treated to a tale of mystery, bittersweet romance and political intrigue.
Told from 3 perspectives. Leo Martin, a disgraced ex politician who is forced back to his old school to study the Grand Jeu. Leo’s story is told in both the present and past tense through diary entries. We learn about his first time at Montverre, and these diary pages play an important part in the overall story. The Magister Ludi, the first female Magister and the one in charge of teaching the Grand Jeu, she has a link with Leo, one which grows deeper and deeper the more of the story is uncovered. And The Rat, whose story line at first seems strange and unneeded, but add’s extra depth and history to the story.
While Leo’s chapters definitely brought more to the overall story line, weaving in bits of information, just enough to keep you engrossed but not quite enough for you to guess the outcome, it is only towards the end of the book that the Magister Ludi and the rat’s chapters are brought into a sharp focus. Their stories are harrowing and life altering in a way, and they really help to bring to light the ego of man that is shown throughout the book. None of the characters in this book are overly likeable, there were non that I felt linked too, and yet you find yourself engrossed in their stories. There are a multitude of side characters we meet throughout the book, Leo’s classmates from his years at Montverre, the other Magisters. And while there are one or two that might worm their way into your hearts, the majority are wholly unlikable, filled with political and familial snobbery, and all have one thing in common, they want change and at the same time want things to stay as they always were.
The Betrayals didn’t have quite the same instant grab as the Binding. The story weaves between perspectives and years, hinting at ideas, but never quite leaving you with enough information to work it all out. I will admit took me a lot longer to get into the plot and to get invested in the characters, but by the end I was engrossed, I desperately needed to know the answer to the mystery of how these stories were entwined, hours had passed and I had finished the book without even realising. Collin’s lyrical writing style makes it easy to get swept away in the story, and her descriptions have you right there along side the characters while they walk, eat and perform the Grand Jeu.
You have to go into this book knowing a part of you wont be sated at the end, I’m not a lover of things left unexplained but Collins left me with a great understanding of the Grand Jeu and yet no way to explain it, no way to bring it to light. It’s part music and mathematics, philosophy and history, life and death. It brings us closer to God and yet keeps us at arms distance. And while the Grand Jeu plays a large part in the story, it’s not what it’s about. It’s about betrayal yes, but also love and humility and trust. It lulls you in with a false sense that you have every idea where the story is going, until you don’t. Each chapter brings a new twist, and you are constantly left guessing how it will play out.
There are so many themes brought to light in this book, the frail male ego, the battle between politics and religion, the misogyny of the male gaze, and yet at it’s heart it is a romance. It’s a tale of two people thought lost to one another, of how love doesn’t always overcome all, and that fear can be it’s greatest enemy. The romance is bittersweet, and at first you will be hard pressed to find it, but once it worm’s it’s way into your heat, their story has your gripped until the last few pages.
I will admit to saying I found this slow starting, there were time’s I wondered whether I would ever get the answers I sought, whether I would ever grow to like the characters, ever become invested in the story. But swiftly, and without me ever realising The Betrayal’s caught me in it’s grasp and took me on a journey I couldn’t help but love.