You know that buying books and actually reading them are two separate hobbies, right?

I don’t know about you but I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read and I almost always glance at the first page before deciding if that’s my next read or not. If a book fails to suck me in from the first page it will land at the bottom of the pile. If the first line or the first paragraph intrigues me, then I have a winner!

Here are a handful of books with strong opening lines, in no particular order.

Prince of Fools – Mark Lawrence.

“I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.”

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

Mark Lawrence, Red Sister

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.

A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.

Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.

Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.

Jim Butcher, Blood Rites

“The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.”

For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Dodging flaming monkey poo, for instance. Or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister entropy curse – but it’s the woman around him who are dying, in increasingly spectacular ways.

Harry’s doubly frustrated because he got involved with this bizarre mystery only as a favour to Thomas, his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out, until his investigation leads him straight to Thomas’s oversexed vampire family. Harry’s about to discover that Thomas’s family tree has been hiding a shocking secret: a revelation that will change Harry’s life forever.

 

God’s War, by Kameron Hurley

“Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.”

Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters – by almost any means necessary.

‘Almost’ proved to be the problem.

Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recovery.

While the centuries-long war rages on only one thing is certain: the world’s best chance for peace rests in the hands of its most ruthless killers.

Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns

“Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead.”

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Conclusion

What do all good opening lines have in common?

They create a sense of urgency, prompt pressing questions, and set the story’s tone.


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