Published by William Morrow on May 18, 2021
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The author, Bridget Collins, said that Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game influenced her book, The Betrayals. The Glass Bead Game takes place in the future where an isolated group of individuals perfect play of the Glass Bead Game. The game is mysterious, its rules never described but it combined music, mathematics and cultural history and requires years of study.
The Betrayals takes place in an unnamed European country in an alternate timeline where the grand jeu, similar to the glass bead game looms large. It too combines music, math and other cultural arts. It’s part of popular culture sort of a bit like religion and sports. There’s even a magazine, The Gambit which recounts performances.
Montverre is a sort of boarding school-monastery where boys are sent to study the grand jeu under magisters. Perform well and you can expect to do well, perhaps even land a government position after your studies.. Do exceptionally well and you could be named a magister with a place at Montverre to spend your life studying the game and teaching, removed from the world.
My thoughts about The Betrayals
The Betrayals is told with multiple points of view and dual timelines. What could have been a mess to follow is actually skillfully woven together. At no point was I confused about when or which character I was reading.
The current day gives us Leo Martine, Gold Medalist of the grand jeu and newly disgraced Minister of Cultural Affairs. He’s sent to Montverre as punishment. We also get student Leo. We see that Leo is smart but vain, used to charming people to get what he wants. He’s not innately bad, just opportunistic. And not always willing or able to see what impact his (in)actions will have.
Present-day also gives us Claire, the Magister Ludi at Montverre. The only woman magister ever. She seems familiar to Leo. She’s reserved. And we see her struggle, constantly scrutinized by people unwilling to believe a woman up to the task.
The third POV refers to herself as the Rat. She keeps to the shadows, unnoticed by most at Montverre.
This is a slow burn, wait for the revelations story. Your heart aches for some of the characters while you’ll root for the downfall of others. The writing is lovely and descriptive but don’t expect to finish with all of the answers. If you enjoy atmospheric stories that focus on people, their impact on one another, and how their actions have long-ranging consequences, this is for you.
For fans of the Amberlough Dossier by Lara Elena Donnelly.
The Betrayals is an atmospheric, deftly woven story set in an alternate Europe peopled with complex characters.
Thank you NetGalley and William Morrow for the ARC.