The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

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I originally received this book as an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is of a physical copy that I finally got from my library.
The author mentions a game in the afterword and where she built the basis for this story. I have not read that book or heard of the game, which must be why I did not get along well with the book. It is a beautiful book, and I only finished it because I had a physical copy that I kept returning to.
I will talk about what I thought was done well in the book, the parts that appealed to me. First was the angst: whoever was feeling the emotions translated well to the page and kept it feeling like the book was actually moving. The background story of upheaval on religious grounds and how new lines were being drawn in the country made it seem like proper historical fiction. It might even have counted as such if not for the game.
The game is the core ideology of the book, the thing that everything revolves around. I would have been able to get behind the entire book if I could grasp what the game would look like. I could not picture it until the very end ( and even then, things are hazy), which kept nagging me throughout the reading. The author’s writing is crisp and evocative, but the content was not something that I really enjoyed in this case. I would definitely pick up another book by the author given a chance, but this was just plain confusing. Also, I guessed a twist that I should not have; I might have enjoyed the reveal!
The story is about a school where the game is taught. There are stringent codes of conduct here, and it is an entirely male-dominated field until one woman breaks through the ranks. Into this already precarious situation, with political turmoil close by, an old student is literally thrown back on campus. This is a recipe for chaos, but old secrets will come to rest by the time the book wraps up.
It is an ambitious story arc, and I would still recommend people who find the review and/or the blurb interesting to pick it up just to give it a shot!

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