There is nothing like opening (or tabbing) to the first page of a fantasy novel you’ve just picked up and reading a first line that jolts you like a stab of lightening. It’s like the author reaches out of the page and wraps their hand right around your throat, yanking you right into the book. Or squirts gorilla glue into your eyeballs, pinning them open and focused on the book in front of you.
I’ve pulled together 28 of the all time best first lines in fantasy below, and at the bottom, what has to be my favorite all time opener. Sharpen you pencils! (Er, um… ready your keyboard.) Your to-read list is about to get a boost.
Get Across the Darkling Free!
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not his murderer.” H.P. Lovecraft, Ting on the Doorstep
“The building was on fire and it wasn’t my fault.” Jim Butcher, Blood Rites
“Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.” Brandon Sanderson, Elantris
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting him down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery” Mark Lawrence, Prince of Fools
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Stephen King, Gunslinger
“My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.” Brandon Sanderson, Legion
“It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.” Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
“It’s important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.” Mark Lawrence, Red Sister
“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we?” N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
“Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.” Lev Grossman, The Magicians
“The place where the story happened was a world on the back of four elephants perched on the shell of a giant turtle. That’s the advantage of space. It’s big enough to hold practically anything, and so, eventually, it does.” Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.” Naomi Novik, Uprooted
“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.” V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic
“The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.” Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
“Lest anyone should suppose that I am a cuckoo’s child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfallen season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me.” Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Dart
“One cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten.” R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before.
“I awake every morning with ink on my hands. Sometimes I am sprawled, facedown, on my worktable, amidst a welter of scrolls and papers.” Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Quest
“My life fell apart when I was sixteen.” Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death
“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.” Diana Wynne Jones
“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.” Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
“When Lilia was four years old, her mother filled a shallow dish with Lilia’s blood and fed it to the boars that patrolled the thorn fence.” Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire
“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.” Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone
“I remember being born.” Rachel Hartman, Seraphina
“One dark season, Grandible became certain that there was something living in his domain within the cheese tunnels.” Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass
And this one is certainly at the top of my all time favorites, one of the absolute best first lines in fantasy. “I, Lucifer, Fallen Angel, Prince of Darkness, Bringer of Light, Ruler of Hell, Lord of the Flies, Father of Lies, Apostate Supreme, Tempter of Mankind, Old Serpent, Prince of This World, Seducer, Accuser, Tormentor, Blasphemer, and without doubt Best Fuck in the Seen and Unseen Universe (ask Eve, that minx) have decided – oo-la-la! – to tell all.” Glen Duncan, I Lucifer
That’s it, that’s my list of some of the best first lines in fantasy. What are your favorites? What did we leave off this list that is begging to be added?