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The Betrayals


The Betrayals

The brilliant and privileged Léo Martin is the product of Montverre, an exclusive academy secreted deep within the mountains. Here, only society’s brightest and most gifted young men are selected for schooling in the arcane and mystical art of le grande jeu.

After Léo left Montverre at the end of his second year under a cloud following a violent tragedy, he was fortunate to find a position in the ruling regime of his country. There he rapidly rose to the position of Cabinet Minister for Culture. He was looked upon as the Golden Boy until he began to doubt the political path of the establishment. It was when he started asking questions and tried to introduce a congressional bill addressing his concerns that his career was threatened. Experience and scrutiny revealed that it might even cost him his life.

"I...devoured every delicious word of Bridget Collins’ tale of a place that doesn’t exist.... [I]t’s captivating fiction (whatever you want to call it), and I couldn’t put it down."

The powers that be spared Léo of total exile due to his prior potential and family connections. Instead he was sent back to Montverre to finish out his last year where the party leader hoped he would see the light.

By the time I was well into this book, I began to see the light myself. Montverre was not a real place, nor did this boarding school and its curriculum resemble that of any I have ever heard of. Its surroundings reminded me of places I had visited throughout many parts of the world, such as mountainous, snowy peaks and winding mountain roads. I have read and seen movies about selective male- and female-only boarding schools of an earlier era. Relatives and friends shared experiences of private schools of decades past.

Still, though, things were blurry. Hogwarts? Not at all --- there are no magical beings here. I began to realize that this place, this school, this not-so-real so-called reality was anything but. I found myself engaged in a genre I had never encountered before: speculative fiction.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines speculative fiction as “a subgenre of science fiction that deals with human rather than technological problems, a genre distinct from and opposite to science fiction in its exclusive focus on possible futures, and a super category for all genres that deliberately depart from imitating ‘consensus reality’ of everyday experience.”

Aha, precisely. Also referenced were vague comparisons to 1984 and THE HANDMAID’S TALE, and I was delighted to see listed THE CRYSTAL CAVE by Mary Stewart, which I read and cherished decades ago. Harry Potter it’s not, which I also heartily consumed, as it doesn’t quite fit the description.

I settled back into my reading chair and devoured every delicious word of Bridget Collins’ tale of a place that doesn’t exist. I didn’t continue because it’s fanciful, romantic or frightening (well, it could be frightening if the wrongs that needed righting didn’t get ironed out). I continued because it’s captivating fiction (whatever you want to call it), and I couldn’t put it down. Collins is an up-and-coming young writer who should have a very successful career ahead of her. She came out of the YA world and had a national bestseller in 2019 with her adult debut, THE BINDING, which I am looking forward to reading.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on May 22, 2021

The Betrayals
by Bridget Collins