– goodreads –
I won’t lie, the cover was the main factor in my decision to read it. Of course I found the premise interesting too, and the positive reviews helped, but look at it. Besides, the promise of romance with magic based on books…how could I not?
“Memories,” she said, at last. “Not people, Emmett. We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm. That’s all books are.”
Did it live up to it? Well, that depends.
The story is split into three parts. First, we follow Emmett as he recovers from a mysterious illness and is subsequently apprenticed as a bookbinder. In a world where books are traditionally made from people’s memories, binders are feared and scorned. What’s more, he discovers that he himself has been bound. The second part is dedicated to his bound memories, slowly working towards what exactly happened that was terrible enough for him to agree to a binding and fall ill. Part three follows Lucian. The romance was angsty, but solid.
The concept of binding memories into books is fascinating and executed well. The main issue explored are memory and consent. How would a society work if you could get traumatic memories erased? Where memories can be bought and sold? If some books were people’s life stories? A person has to agree to a binding before the memory can be bound and removed, but agreement can be often a matter of pressure. Some sell their memories because they are poor and it’s their last resort. Others do so because a family member or society has pressured them into it. Another character forces the maids he rapes to get their memories bound so he can do it again…and read the memories of the previous times. It’s not a light or happy kind of book.
The problem is…so many things and plot threads are just dropped as soon as they’re not directly relevant to the plot anymore. We never get to know if anything happens to the rapist (which is something that really bothers me). A minor character’s death, Emmett’s family, all dropped without closure. To top it off, it features an ending so rushed it almost, almost gave Daughter of Mystery a run for its money. And this is just a matter of preference, but I wasn’t much of a fan of how every single character was varying degrees of asshole. Emmett could be downright cruel to his little sister. Looking back at it, I liked the first and especially second parts much more than the third.
Would I still recommend it? Probably. I found it far more enjoyable than I just made it sound. But a lot could be better, too.
Recommended to: anyone looking for books about books, those who find the concept interesting, people who can’t resist pretty covers
Not recommended to: those who don’t like reading about assholes, content warnings for abuse, animal cruelty, suicide, and rape