Audiobook Review: The Betrayals

Published May 18th 2021

Author: Bridget Collins

Narrators: Sam Woolf & Sarah Ovens

Audiobook Length: 14 hours 36 minutes

If everything in your life was based on a lie
Would you risk it all to tell the truth?

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…

The Betrayals was a very unexpected story inspired by The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. Although it was interesting, it did take me a long time to get into as I stopped reading multiple times. There were even moments where I thought this would be a DNF, but I decided to push through and I am glad that I gave this novel a chance. It does live up to its title as there are multiple betrayals for the characters, but I do not believe I would pick up this novel again. However, even after finishing this novel, I am still having thoughts about it, so I would recommend for others to give it a try and see for themselves.

The story is set mainly at Montyerre, an institution for male scholars to study the grand jeu, a mystical game involving math, music, and other subjects. Right away the novel left me with more questions than answers as the location and time period are mysterious. I believe it is historical based on the genre, but I could not pinpoint a time period. I also could not find a description of the setting, although it seemed to be in some mountains in France (a guess on my part). There are hints at there being political issues within an alternate reality mixed with a hint of magical realism. Even the institution itself seems to be a classical old world type setting, but is not fully described, so I just had to create my own picture in my mind. As the institution is a mysterious place with its own history and lore, it is understandable that not every detail is initially given, but I just wanted a little more.

There are four perspectives in this novel with two narrators (two points of view per narrator) and this worked well for the story.  The story opens with a mysterious woman called the Rat. While her identity is secretive for most of the novel, slowly her part in the story ties into the others. While I liked the mysterious aspect, there were times where this point of view was frustrating as I did not know how much or how little I was supposed to remember about some of the details and if they would come into play later in the novel. Two of them follow the main character Leo Martin, who was one of the brightest and best students to attend Montyerre. The first is the present day where Leo returns to Montyerre and the second is his diary entries from his original time at the institution. When Leo returns to the institution, he meets the novel’s fourth perspective, Claire Dryden, who is the first woman to hold Montyerre’s top and prestigious post, Magister Ludi.

Leo feels drawn to Claire when he first meets her, as she seems familiar although he has no recollection of ever meeting her. He is also shaped by the misogynistic world around him and cannot fully comprehend her holding a high position as a woman. He does experience some growth, but his character can be very frustrating throughout most of the novel. On the other hand, the reader gets an insight into Claire where she has to continue to prove her worth because she is a woman is a male dominated world. The characters drive the story as the reader learns more about their pasts and presents. They are very complex and many of their decisions were difficult to understand. The entire story itself is a puzzle that is put together piece by piece and does not fully make sense until the reader gets towards the end of the story.

Overall, this was a very interesting novel where it kept me wondering how everything fits together. There are smaller twists as the plot moves forward and different pieces come together with a major plot twist that helps to put some of the remaining pieces together. As a whole, this novel made a lot of sense in the end yet still has some elements I do not fully understand. This book was interesting and never boring as it is more thought provoking as the reader tries to piece everything together.  The writing was very imaginative and descriptive and the pacing is a slow burn. This novel was generally enjoyable and I would recommend it for those that do not mind premises that are more ambiguous with a character driven story.

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