ARC Review: THE COLLARBOUND by Rebecca Zahabi

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in yellow on white next to ink drawing of man with flowing cloak with gold collare and gold magic
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 1.5 stars
Series: yes - first book


Book cover for THE COLLARBOUND: title in gold on black below ink image of man with gold collar

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE COLLARBOUND is one of those books where very little happens, and what does happen mostly feels like the two narrators are observers to events rather than being involved.

It was a very disappointing read. I never really knew what the characters wanted, what was driving their actions. It felt like they were just wandering around between meals and classes, without anything pushing them onwards. The lack of goals linked to a lack of stakes, and both meant there was no reason to engage and connect to the characters. A robot programmed by someone else could have replaced them in the story with no change to it at all.

I’ve just re-read the blurb and I honestly can’t say I recognise that as the book I’ve read. The book I read felt more like a slow, gentle walk around a magic school and a city, introducing you to the outcast race and seeing them be treated badly. There are hints of something happening elsewhere, but it doesn’t feel integrated int the story.

This made the ending incredibly unsatisfying. It didn’t feel set up. It was hard to follow (a guy turns up, makes a speech and then???) Or and neither narrator are really involved in it at all. It feels more like a very very long prologue setting things up and now I’m expecting the actual book to happen, except it’s the end of the book.

I didn’t actually know it was the first in a series until the end of the book (it’s not on GR, or obviously on any of the promo for the book), where I was expecting things to finally happen, but instead got a “continues in b2” message. I’m guessing things, therefore, might actually happen in the next book, but I’m not going to keep reading.


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