“Secrets are more precious than money. They’re the currency of power.”
So what’s the book about?
On the other side of the Shadowpass, rebellion is brewing and refugees have begun to trickle into the city at the edge of the world. Looming high on the cliff is The Nest, a fortress full of mages who offer protection, but also embody everything the rebellion is fighting against: a strict hierarchy based on magic abilities, and the oppression of the Kher community. When Isha arrives as a refugee, she attempts to fit in amongst the other mages, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast. She can’t remember her past or why she has the tattoo. All she knows is that she survived. She doesn’t intend to give up now. Tatters, who wears the golden collar of a slave, knows that this rebellion is different from past skirmishes. He was once one of the rebels, fought beside them, and technically, they still own him. He plans to stay in the shadows, until Isha appears in his tavern. He’s never seen a human with a tattoo, and the markings look eerily familiar. Despite his fear of being discovered, Tatters decides to help her. As the rebellion carves a path of destruction towards the city, The Collarbound follows an unlikely friendship between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart.
“They rested at the edge of the shrine, at the Edge of the world. As far as the eye could see, there was mist, fading into the light blue of the sky. The wind was so fierce that, for a moment, Tatters could believe it would rip his soul out of his body and carry it upwards. Part of him longed to jump.”
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- I’m a reader who sticks more to characters and doesn’t focus on the magic system at all, yet this book managed to make me so fascinated by magic that all I want to do is read these epic and unusual battles within the minds of the mages. The idea that everything starts from the head, from the thoughts, is so exciting to read, because it is not an athletic body that is required to win a battle here, but a steeled brain. Of course, this kind of magic has many applications, for example, that one can enter the mind of another, thereby influencing him, changing his feelings or yet also searching through his memories. So many ways to dominate another that this magic is naturally also restricted so that no rules are broken. You can certainly imagine how bad it must be when someone is in your thoughts. I found it particularly exciting that epic battles happen in the minds of mages, so to speak, as images and emotions are used as a form of combat – and as we all know, it is much worse to be destroyed mentally than physically. Our mind is what characterises us, and so it is most exciting when this place is attacked to break the other. One might think that the magicians only send lightning through the other’s mind, but no, real duels are fought in the mind of another, where the location, own body and type of attacks are determined by oneself, so these duels are even more epic than the real ones, because our mind has more possibilities than the real world.
- One might think that an author can only focus on one theme, but Zahabi has also managed to create believable and interesting characters alongside the extraordinary magic system. And in this, Tatters in particular could do it for me, as he probably did for most who read the book. He is charming and a little cheeky, and his secrets also give him a mysterious character. Through several of his actions, you get that he is shrewd and knows how to figure out how to find out other secrets, but still hides his own. And even though he often seems cold towards others, you realise in the course of the story that he has a heart and cares for others. It also seems that Tatters has an interesting past, which is forced to be revealed more and more, and this past becomes known when Isha enters Tatters’ world. Because unlike Tatters, Isha cannot remember her past, which attracts Tatters. A teacher-student relationship slowly builds up between the two, and you realise that at some point the student will surpass her teacher!
- Racism is another central theme in this book. Be it racism towards Isha, who is hated because of her tattoo, or be it racism towards the Kher, the beings who cannot use “mind magic”. And so two worlds build up right next to each other. Even if one honestly doesn’t know exactly why the Kher are hated so much, many people don’t need a reason why racism arises, and so the horned beings are seen as outsiders. The Kher are portrayed as savage and unintelligent beings, but through the encounter between Tatters and the Kher, one quickly realises that this is just a lie to make the Kher hate even more. Tatters and Isha show us what a complex culture lies behind the Kher, who have many traditions and their own religion – thus not savage at all, but simply different from our own. The tattoos also have a meaning, and so Isha also wants to understand what the drawings on her skin mean. It is so nice to read how Tatters and Isha learn about the Kher culture and also question their own traditions.
What did not work for me!
The book is relatively short and yet the story is told at just the right pace, which is why I kept asking myself why this volume was so short. The story has so much to tell that I hope the next volumes will be longer so that we have more time to spend in the world and get to know the characters better.
“If this was where she belonged, in the space in-between, then this was where she would hold her ground. This was where she would fight.”
So what are my final thoughts about it?
This is one of those books that you can’t stop reading and you just want more! I enjoyed this book so much and honestly it wasn’t even on my radar and I’m even happier that I’ve now been sitting full of thoughts after finishing the book and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The Collarbound is the kind of book that draws you in from the start. It’s quite a slow story, slowly building tension as we learn more and more. The most compelling factor of this novel is definitely that there are many mysteries, be it to the cultures, to the magic system and also to the individual characters, that brought a great satisfaction when individual mysteries were solved. Little by little the mysteries are solved, with each revelation, making me want more. How one cannot read this book in one sitting is somehow a mystery to me. Zahabi has created a really fascinating world that kept me very engrossed. The world building was well thought out and I loved learning more about the mages and the Khers, as well as the individual characters. Also, Zahabi has a knack for creating fascinating, dynamic characters. Both Tatters and Isha were really compelling characters and I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop. If you are looking for a fantasy story that will keep you up late into the night, please read The Collarbound!
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