Aside from reading the best dark fantasy books, becoming pure evil, destroying worlds, and corrupting the youth, I’ve always been interested in first lines from the best fantasy books.
After all, it’s the opening line that usually either grabs you as a reader and excites and entices you enough to continue on the journey…or close the book and move on.
Since it is the first of the new year, I figured now would be good time to post a catalog of all the first sentences from the best fantasy novels that have been written over the years including books like harry potter.
I have made a few exceptions here and there for longer sequences which I thought were poetic or were more fairly understood as a “slow build,” but for the most part all of these entries stand fine on their single opening line.
Finally, I have let the poet’s eye wander here, not the rigorous scholar’s. Some of these opening lines come from the prologue of their respective fantasy novels, others come from the first chapter. All dazzle and are worth reading.
73 First Lines of the Best Fantasy Books
1 Homeland (The Dark Elf Trilogy)
Never does a star grace this land with a poet’s light of twinkling mysteries, nor does the sun send to here its rays of warmth and life.
2 Exile (The Dark Elf Trilogy)
I remember vividly the day I walked away from the city of my birth, the city of my people. All the Underdark lay before me, a life of adventure and excitement, with possibilities that lifted my heart.
3 Sojourn (The Dark Elf Trilogy)
The dark elf sat on the barren mountainside, watching anxiously as the line of red grew above the eastern horizon. This would perhaps be his hundredth dawn, and he knew well the sting the searing light would bring to his lavender eyes—eyes that had known only the darkness of the Underdark for more than four decades.
4 The Worm Ourorobos
The eastern stars were paling to the dawn as Lessingham followed his conductor along the grass walk between the shadowy ranks of Irish yews, that stood like soldiers mysterious and expectant in the darkness. The grass was bathed in night-dew, and great white lilies sleeping in the shadows of the yews loaded the air of that garden with fragrance. Lessingham felt no touch of the ground beneath his feet, and when he stretched out his hand to touch a tree his hand passed through branch and leaves as though they were unsubstantial as a moonbeam.
5 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.
6 Book of the New Sun
It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future. The locked and rusted gate that stood before us, with whisps of river fog threading its spikes like the mountain paths, remains in my mind now as the symbol of my exile. That is why I have begun this account of it with the aftermath of our swim, in which I, the torturer’s apprentice Severain, had so nearly drowned.
7 Elric of Melnibone
It is the color of bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows behind his shoulders is milk white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeves of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the colour of bone, resting on each arm of a seat which has been carved from a single, massive ruby.
8 Nine Princes in Amber
It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.
9 Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad)
When the world was new, the seven Gods dwelt in harmony, and the races of man were one people.
He abode with them and cherished them, and they prospered in his care. The other gods also gathered peoples about them, and each God cherished his own people.
But Belar’s eldest brother, Aldur, was God over no people. He dwelt apart from men and Gods, until the day that a vagrant child sought him out. Aldur accepted him the child as his disciple and called him Belgarath. Belgarath learned the secret of the Will and the Word and became a sorcerer.
10 The Way of Shadows
Azoth squatted in the alley, cold mud squishing through his bare toes.
11 The Shadows Edge
“We’ve got a contract for you,” Momma K said.
12 Beyond the Shadows
Logan Gyre was sitting in the mud and blood of the battlefield of Pavvil’s Grove when Terah Graesin came to him.
13 The Darkness that Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing)
One cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten.
14 The Thousandfold Thought (The Prince of Nothing)
There had been a time, for Achamian, when the future had been a habit, something belonging to the hard rhythm of his days toiling in his father’s shadow.
15 The Judging Eye (The Aspect Emperor)
The tracks between whim and brutality are many and inscrutable in Men, and though they often seem to cut across the impassable terrain of reason, in truth, it is reason that paves their way.
16 Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Flint Fireforge collapsed on a moss-covered boulder.
17 Dragons of Winter Night
Tanis Half-Elven sat in the meeting of the Council of Highseekers and listened, frowning.
18 Dragons of Spring Dawning
The Dragonarmy officer slowly descended the stairs from the second floor of the Saltbreeze Inn.
Ash fell from the sky.
20 The Eye of the World
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.
21 The Great Hunt
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass leaving memories that become legend, then fade to myth, and are long forgotten when that Age comes again.
22 The Dragon Reborn
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
23 The Well of Ascension
The army crept like a dark stain across the horizon.
24 The Hero of Ages
Fatren squinted up at the red sun, which hid behind its perpetual screen of dark haze.
Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early in the morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.
There were great advantages to being unimportant.
27 Lies of Locke Lamora
Locke Lamora’s Rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever.
28 Red Seas Under Red Skies
Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.
29 Red Country
“Gold.” Wist made the word sound like a mystery there was no solving. “Makes men mad.”
30 Best Served Cold
The sunrise was the color of bad blood. It leaked out of the east and stained the dark sky red, marked the scraps of cloud with stolen gold. Underneath it the road twisted up the mountainside towards the fortress of Fontezarmo-a cluster of sharp towers, ash-black against the wounded heavens. The sunrise was red, black and gold.
The colors of their profession.
31 The Heroes
“Too old for this shit,” muttered Craw, wincing at the pain in his dodge knee with every other step.
32 The Way of Kings
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Cenn asked.
33 The Name of the Wind
It was night again.
34 The Wise Man’s Fear
Dawn was coming.
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.
36 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
37 The Assassins Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
I awake every morning with ink on my hands. Sometimes I am sprawled, facedown, on my worktable, amidst a welter of scrolls and papers.
38 A Game of Thrones
“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
39 A Clash of Kings
The Comet’s tail spread across the dawn as a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky.
40 A Feast for Crows
“Dragons,” said Mollander.
41 A Storm of Swords
The day was grey and bitter cold, and the dogs would not take the scent.
42 A Dance with Dragons
The night was rank with the smell of man.
43 The Hunger Games
When I wake up the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.
44 Catching Fire
I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.
I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on worn leather.
46 The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
47 The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of the Lord of the Rings
Aragon sped up on the hill. Every now and again he bent to the ground. Hobbits go light, and their footprints are not easy even for a Ranger to read, but not far from the top a spring crossed the path, and in the wet earth he saw what he was seeking.
48 The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings
Pippin looked out from the shelter of Gandalf’s cloak. He wondered if he was awake or still sleeping, still in the swift-moving dream in which he had been wrapped so long since the great ride began. The dark world was rushing by and the wind sang loudly in his ears. He could see nothing but the wheeling stars, and away to his right vast shadows against the sky where the mountains of the South marched past. Sleepily he tried to reckon the times and stages of their journey, but his memory was drowsy and uncertain.
49 The Hobbit Or There and Back Again
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
50 The Magician’s Nephew
This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and the land of Narnia first began.
In those days Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in Lewisham Road. In those days, if you were a boy you had a stiff Eton collar every day and schools were unusually nastier than they are now. But meals were nicer; and as for sweets, I won’t tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain. And in those days there lived in London a girl called Polly Plummer.
51 The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.
52 The Magicians
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
53 The Magician King
Quentin rode a grey horse with white socks named Dauntless. He wore black leather boots up to his knees, different-colored stockings, and a long navy blue topcoat that was richly embroidered with seed pearls and silver thread. On his head was a platinum coronet. A glittering side-sword bumped against his leg—not the ceremonial kind, the real kind, the kind that would actually be useful in a fight. It was ten o’clock in the morning on a warm, overcast day in late August. He was everything a king of Filory should be. He was hunting a magic rabbit.
54 The Magician’s Land
The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.
55 The Black Company
There were prodigies and portents enough, One-Eye says. We must blame ourselves for misinterpreting them. One-Eye’s handicap in no way impairs his marvelous hindsight.
56 Shadows Linger
All men are born condemned, so the wise say. All suckle the breast of Death.
All bow before that Silent Monarch. That Lord in Shadow lifts a finger. A feather flutters on earth. There is no reason in His song. The good go young. The wicked prosper. He is king of the Chaos Lords. His breath stills all souls.
57 The White Rose
There was an instant of utter stillness when the boundary reached me. Then a roar out of hell. The winds inside were ferocious. I thought of nothing but getting down and hanging on. Around me gear was flying about, changing shape as it flew. Then I spied Goblin. And nearly threw up.
58 Gardens of the Moon
“Prod and pull,” the old woman was saying, “tis the way of the Empress, as like the gods themselves.” She leaned to one side and spat, then brought a soiled cloth to her wrinkled lips. “Three husbands and two sons I saw off to war.”
59 Dead House Gates
A corkscrew plume of dust raced across the basin, heading deeper into the trackless desert of the Pan’s potsun Odhan.
60 Memories of Ice
The bridge’s Gadrobi limestone blocks lay scattered, scorched and broken in the bank’s churned mud, as if a god’s hand had swept down to shatter the stone span in a single, petty gesture of contempt. And that, Gruntle suspected, was but a half-step from the truth.
61 House of Chains
The dog savaged a woman, an old man and a child before the warriors drove it into a abandoned kiln at the edge of the village.
62 Midnight Tides
From the twisting, smoke filled clouds, blood rained down.
63 The Bonehunters
The webs between the towers were visible in glistening sheets far overhead, and the faint wind coming in from the sea shivered the vast threads so that a mist of rain descended on Kartool City, as it did every morning in the Clear Season.
64 Toll the Hounds
Surrounded in a city of blue fire, she stood alone on the balcony.
65 Reaper’s Gale
“Where is this one from?”
Tanal Yathvanar watched the Invigliator slowly rotating the strange object in his pudgy hands, the onyx stones in the many rings on the short fingers glimmering in the shafts of sunlight that reached in through the opened window.
66 Dust of Dreams
War had come to the tangled, overgrown grounds of the dead Azath tower in the city of Letheras. Swarms of lizards had invaded the river’s shoreline. Discovering a plethora of strange insects, they began a feeding frenzy.
67 The Crippled God
Cotillion drew two daggers. His gaze fell to the blades.
68 The Steel Remains
When a man you know to be of sound mind tells you his recently deceased mother has just tried to climb in his bedroom window and eat him, you only have two basic options. You can smell his breath, take his pulse, an check his pupil’s to see if he’s ingested anything nasty, or you can believe him.
69 The Cold Commands
When they got down into the fringes of the forest beyond Hinerion, Gerin saw the heat shimmering off the scrublands ahead of them, and knew the crunch had come.
Live or die, this was the shape of their last chance.
70 The Wandering Fire
Winter was coming.
71 The Darkest Road
“Do you know the wish of your heart?”
Once, when Kim Ford was an undergraduate, young for university and young for her age, someone had asked her that question over cappuccino on a first date. She’d been very impressed. Later, rather less young, she’d often smiled at the memory of how close he’d come to getting her into bed on the strength of a good line and a way with waiters in a chic restaurant. The question, though, had stayed with her.
72 Devices and Desires
“The quickest way to a man’s heart,” said the instructor, “is proverbally through his stomach. But if you want to get into his brain, I recommend the eye-socket.”
73 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic.
Have You Read All of these Great Fantasy Novels?
Then here are the opening lines from both of my fantasy books. If you enjoy the first line, then you should start your next fantasy adventure at amazon.
Splatterism: The Tragic Recollections of a Minotaur Assailant (An Upbuilding Edifying Discourse)
Alive. Why am I still…alive?
Splatterism: The Disquieting Recollections of a Minotaur Assailant (An Upbuilding Edifying Discourse)
How was the first living creature killed? Was it an accident? Was it on purpose? Was it while it slept? Was it in a bowery meadow, next to a lover? Was it while its back was turned? Was it with magic? Was it with a knife? Was it with an arrow? Was it with a stone? Was it with two hands? Was it with a hatchet? Was it with the eyes? Was it because of greed? Was it because of hate? Was it because of sadness? Was it because of love? Was it from behind? Was it many against one? Was it one against another? Was it inevitable? Did it take courage? Was it quiet? Was it loud? Did it—did it feel—good?