Thursday 18 August 2022

The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

Book Title: The First Binding
Author: R.R. Virdi
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Source: A hardcover copy from the publisher. Thank you to Jenna Petts and Gollancz. My review is honest.

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

Thank you to the publisher for my copy. My review is honest.

What did I think?

I've been following R.R. Virdi's inspiring journey for a while now and have been eagerly awaiting this release.

The First Binding is the first novel in a new epic fantasy series, Tales of Tremaine, infused with South Asian world-building elements, and if you've read The Name of the Wind, you will without a doubt compare the two. 

I have been in a reading slump for months, basically for most of 2022, and I was worried that I wouldn't manage to tackle this 800 page book, but the opening drew me in right away, and I rarely looked up to check Twitter on my phone. That's a rarity nowadays.

The opening and pacing in general is slow, and Virdi takes great care to build the characters, world, and plot without rushing, but at no point did I feel impatient. On the contrary, I enjoyed every single tangent Ari, the Storyteller, takes the reader on.

Virdi uses, much like Rothfuss, a frame narrative. At the beginning Ari arrives in an inn, just like Kvothe, and ends up telling his story. Told in first person, The First Binding jumps back and forth between the past and the present, but there isn't just a story within a story, several narratives are woven through the main plot, and I found all of them gripping.

The world-building and magic system are rich and immersive, and Virdi's prose is beautiful, even lyrical at times. Ari is a fascinating character, flawed, troubled, and can't keep his mouth shut, but he's also caring.

There is a magic school (of course) and I'm not a huge fan of that setting or the coming-of-age theme, but this is mostly a novel about stories and storytelling, and the emphasis lies more on the importance of found family, friendship and kindness.

I recommend The First Binding to every epic fantasy fan and am assuming that in a decade it'll be remembered as one of the cornerstones of this genre.

And last but not least: look at this GORGEOUS map!

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