Monday, April 30, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #12

For my second post on the opening passages of vintage works of fantasy fiction, I’ve chosen the beginning of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Rising. Published in 1970, this novel was one of my favorites growing up. It has a puzzle-like plot filled with murder, intrigue, and magic. I’ve read this book more than once and enjoyed it every time.

Brion Haldane, King of Gwynedd, Prince of Meara, and Lord of the Purple March, reined in his horse sharply at the top of the hill and scanned the horizon. 
He was not a big man, though regal bearing and a catlike grace had convinced many a would-be adversary that he was. But his enemies rarely had time to notice this technicality.  
Dark, lean, with just a trace of grey beginning to show at his temples, in the precise black beard, he commanded instant respect by his mere presence in a room. When he spoke, whether with the crackle of authority or the lower tones of subtle persuasion, men listened and obeyed.
– Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Rising

This is a great novel, but the question for today is whether it has a great beginning? Let me know what you think.

4 comments:

BJB said...

Sorry, but this beginning doesn't work for me. It just seems wrong. I don't think "catlike grace" gives a false impression of mass. The opposite, rather. And what's the technicality -- that he isn't big? Also, if he isn't big, I wouldn't think he command instant respect in his world. Maybe I'm being overly critical. But if I've got several disagreements or questions with just the first few sentences, the book hasn't started on the right foot with me.

Joseph Finley said...

BJB - thanks for the comment. I suspect this may become a trend with some of the vintage beginnings. I'm not sure the elements of a great beginning were top of mind to many fantasy authors back in the 60s and 70s, who had a tendency to start their stories with a character's physical description. Look at Beginning #11 if you want another example.

Baron said...

I like the tone (or perhaps just the writing style), but I don't see the hint of conflict here to make it a great beginning.

Joseph Finley said...

Baron, I agree with your point about conflict. As I mentioned above, a lot of the authors in the 60s and 70s, for some reason, focused their opening passages on character description. It goes on for several more paragraphs too in Deryni Rising.