Mar 9, 2015

Judge a Book By Its.... First Line

I'm going to be starting a new series here at Character's Shadow called "Judge a Book By Its..." in which I'll be ranting and raving about wonderful (and not-so-great) first lines, covers, and blurbs. To start off, as the title states, I'll be talking about first lines!

Sometimes, when I'm really on the edge about a book, I'll read the first line (or first page, or first chapter, but whatever, you get the point XD) and use that to determine whether I'll actually pick up the book. Other times, a good first line isn't quite as critical, but it's still a bonus. A book's first words set the tone and give the reader a taste of what they're about to get themselves into. 

So, now, onto the questionairre: great or just okay?

(Note: Remember that these are just my opinions, and a first line that isn't so great for me may be an awesome first line for you, and also, just because a book's first line isn't so great doesn't me I don't love the book. Also, I haven't actually read all of these books.)

First up for scrutiny: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein:
I am a coward.
Great or just okay?

And the verdict is... GREAT!!! I love, love, love this first line. It sets up Verity's voice, gives us a bit of an insight into the story's going to go, and this line becomes a reoccurring theme throughout the story. It's fantastic!!

Next up: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman:
Gretchen Muller peered through the car's rain-spotted windshield.
Great or just okay?

Personally, I think this one is just okay. Yes, it opens up with action, and sets the scene, but I tend to like first lines that exhibit more voice/mystery/intrigue/action, and maybe even set up a reoccurring theme like in Code Name Verity. Now, to be fair, I can't judge this line based on whether or not it sets up a reoccurring theme since I haven't read the book, but overall, this first line isn't bad, but to me it isn't great either.

Now for Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson:
I've seen Steelheart bleed.
Great or just okay?

Great! This raises questions, like who is Steelheart? Why is seeing him bleed such a big deal? Why does the narrator care so much about this experience? It also conveys a bit of the narrator's voice in such a short statement. Also, random observation: both first sentences deemed "great" so far have been short and blunt. Maybe I like shorter, to-the-point first sentences?

Onwards to Splintered by A.G. Howard:
I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.
The verdict: Great! This first line is so weird. It's AMAZING!!! It sets the tone for the story, raises so many questions, and it's just so outlandish that it's perfect for an Alice in Wonderland retelling! (Also, I see this line breaks my short and blunt first sentence rule. *shrugs* Oh, well, I thought I had something there.)

Next up: The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson:
My brother is the King of Nowhere.
Verdict: Great! This introduces a central issue to the story, showcases the narrator's voice, is short and to the point (maybe that rule still stands, and the last one was just an outlier? XD) and raises questions. Like, why this name? What from the narrator's life and past makes her say that?

Now: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo:
The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches. 
Verdict: In my opinion, this is just okay.  It's a little long, in my opinion, for a first sentence. There's a bit too much detail to kick off with for me. While it's a great way to introduce the characters, and I like how it incorporates the Russian feel that'll be hinted at throughout the story right off the bat, I wish it would've been a bit shorter and maybe incorporated a bit more mystery. That's just my personal preference.

Alright! That's all of them for now! What are some of y'all's favorite first sentences? Do you agree or disagree with me on these? Let me know in the comments!

~Katheline Hansen


  1. Thanks for this post! I must go change my first sentence now :)

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! :D HahaXD I'm sure your first sentence is great. =) But, good first lines are really hard to come up with. I just come up with a halfway decent one for the first draft and tell myself I can fix it in revisions. XD

  2. Wow, I really want to read Steelheart now. That first line snagged me! XD Nice post!

    1. I know, right?! It's fantastic!! =D And, thanks! :D

  3. Great post!
    My favorite first line is from Poe - "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge."

    1. That's a really good first line- so dramatic. Lol XD And, of course, it's so fitting that that would be your favorite first line, Saber. Lol XD