Monday, July 23, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #23

I’m returning to the realm of vintage fantasy for this week’s “beginning.” Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Chronicles books are among the classics from the early days of the historical fantasy genre, and here is how the second book in that series, Deryni Checkmate, begins.


March has long been month of storms in the Eleven Kingdoms. It brings the snow sweeping down from the great northern sea to layer a last coat of winter on the silver mountains, to seethe and swirl around the high plateaus of the east until it finally funnels across the great Gwynedd plain and turns to rain. 
March is a fickle month at best. It is the last stand of winter against the coming spring, but it is also harbinger of the greening, of the floods which yearly inundate the central lowlands. It has been known to be mild – though not recently. Still, it is spring – close enough for men to dare hope that winter might end early this year; it has, on occasion. 
But those who know the ways of Gwynedd do not build their dreams on the chance of an early spring. For they have learned through hard experience that March is capricious, often cruel, and never, never to be trusted.
March in the first regnal of King Kelson of Gwynedd was to be no exception.
– Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Checkmate

Some may believe that this beginning violates one of the “rules” of fiction writing – never open a book with the weather! – while others find this “rule” to be a myth. Regardless, I doubt this view against opening with the weather was a big deal in 1972, when this novel was written. As far as vintage beginnings go, I like this one, especially with the hint of conflict at the end. But let me know what you think – does the opening of Deryni Checkmate have the makings of a great beginning?

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