28 Best First Lines in Fantasy

best first lines in fantasyThere 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.

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Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears DeathThere’s nothing new about novels of the post apocalypse. But if you get most of your fantasy to-read list off American or European book lists, books that take place in post apocalyptic Africa may be new indeed. Who Fears Death (this is an affiliate link, see below), by author Nnedi Okorafor, is an award winning novel about a remarkable woman surviving the bleak landscape of a war torn post apocalyptic Africa.

Who Fears Death is more magical realism than full blown fantasy, but regardless, is well worth a read. I loved the folklore the author wove beautifully through the fabric of this story. Creatures and myth’s that are new and unusual to most American readers, and fascinating for it.

This book tackles some seriously weighty topics. Rape, genital mutilation, war, violence, feminism… all woven expertly through the pages of this book. It’s serious stuff, but don’t let that sway you away from this gem. Who Fears Death is well worth the read.

My only negative is I feel the middle does bog down a bit. There is a section of the book that comes late in the middle portion of the story that feels a little out of sorts, as if it were tacked on almost as an after thought, and didn’t really form organically out of the rest of the story. That said, it’s relatively short, and the rest of the book more than makes up for this little imperfection. Or, at least, what feels to me as an imperfection.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The world, the magical systems, the folklore are all fascinating from the first page to the last. And I loved how the author wove real life struggles into the story. I definitely, give Who Fears Death a solid thumbs up.

Yes, this is an Amazon affiliate link! If you make a purchase using this link Amazon pays a bit into my pie fund, and that makes you awesome (and me a little pudgy!).


The Dark History of Magic: Malleus Malleficarum

malleus malefic arumWitches are an integrated part of our lore, our culture and our stories. We’ve all studied the Salem Witch Trials in school, and who hasn’t heard of Hermione Granger? Shows such as Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch are ever popular, and few women have not dressed as a witch on halloween at least once in their lives –  pointy hat, broomstick and warty nose in all. But these fun fictions aside, magic has a way of bleeding into the real world in violent and unpredictable ways. For witches, this dark history is tightly tied to the Malleus Maleficarum.

Latin for “The Hammer of Witches” (or “Hexenhammer” in German) the Malleus Maleficarum is one of the most infamous and bloody medieval writings on witches, giving us some insight into how women were seen in the fifteenth century, when witchcraft was deeply feared. This book would have made Sabrina the Teenage Witch cower in a corner, as it described the rules and guidelines for identifying, interrogating, prosecuting, convicting, and killing suspected witches.

The History of the Malleus Maleficarum 

The Malleus Maleficarum was written – unsurprisingly – by two religious men. Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, two Inquisitors for the Catholic Church, penned this guide in 1486. It was first read by the masses in Germany in 1487.

Jacob Sprenger was prior and regent of studies of the Cologne Convent. He later became Dean of Cologne University and in 1488, was named provincial of the Province of Germany. Heinrich Kramer was prior of the Dominican House in Schlettstadt in Lower Alsace. In 1474, he became inquisitor for several German provinces. In addition to adding fuel to the witch hunt fire, the Malleus Maleficarum was successful in large part to the reputations of its authors.

In 1484, Kramer and Sprenger were granted the power to prosecute those they deemed to be witches via a papal bull from Pope Innocent VII. The point of the bull was to squash protestant objection to the inquisition. Following the bull, the Malleus Maleficarum was widely adopted as a witch hunting manual by catholics and protestants in Germany, France, and Italy.

It may surprise you to learn that this witch hunting manual was banned in 1490 by the catholic church. There were people in the christian community (mainly scholars and theologians because educated people are always the ones with the most sense) who doubted the existence of witches at all. But the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum so passionately believed they were able to convince the majority of it’s necessity, saying “Whether the belief that there are such beings as witches is so essential a part of the catholic faith that obstinacy to maintain the opposite opinion manifestly savors of heresy.”

The book remained in use for 300 years across the world, especially during witch trials in England and scatterings of Europe. Thanks to his book, the misconceptions and fears about women who acted outside the norm – considered witches – were reinforced and given teeth. These misconceptions became irrefutable truth and gave accusers a tool to act on their fears.

The Malleus Maleficarum was the de facto guide for detecting and persecuting witches, including the rules and procedures by which their torture and death must be carried out. It is difficult to know precisely how many people lost their lives do to this inquisition. Estimates run from 600,000 to as high as 9 million. Whatever the real number is, it can be argued that this is likely one of the most harmful books ever written.

The Malleus Maleficarum cited reasons for accusing and punishing women for witchcraft as varied as:

  • Being old
  • Being a midwife
  • Being Jewish
  • Being a Gypsy
  • Having a weird birthmark or skin deformity
  • Living alone
  • Being mentally ill
  • Owning medicinal herbs

From our modern perspective such a list is nonsense. Most women, including myself, would fall under suspicion with standards such as these. But the fear that is birthed out of ignorance is never all that far away. Consider christian protestors today who believe that feminists are representatives of the devil as an example. Such views are most certainly on the edges of our modern world, science and reason have rightly pushed them there. But such things always lurks there at the shadowy edges.

Use in the USA 

Fear of witches spread all over the world, and was notable especially in the english settlements in America. We all know about the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. We learn about it in school and watch films (The Crucible is one of the best of these in my opinion) and plays based on the horrors that took place there. The Malleus Maleficarum gave these ideas the strength to travel across the sea and take hold of communities in the new world.

It is impossible to tell the exact effect the Malleus Maleficarum had on witch hunting in America. There is little to no documentation now how exactly the manual was used in trials. But it’s not hard to see that it added fuel to the fire. For example, witches were often tortured into confessing or naming other women to be witches. The number of confessed or accused witches grew and grew, which satiated people’s suspicions and quelled doubts. These confessions provided “frightful proofs that the Devil is still alive,” as it was later put in America in the Salem witch trials.

The Book Itself 

This awful piece of literary history is split into 3 sections. Part 1 discusses and defines witchcraft. It claims that women who are witches renounce god and catholicism, have “carnal relations” with the devil, and routinely sacrifice kids to the devil. It also adds in a clever little loophole to combat anyone who disagrees. There’s a bit that basically says that since the bible expressedly states that there are witches, not believing in witchcraft makes you a heretic.

Part 2 talks about all the awful things witches do and how they can be stopped. It targets all the things god-fearing men of the 1400s worried about. It claimed that witches frolic with satan, can ruin crops and kill cattle, and can cast spells against which they had no protection. The authors even made up some examples!

Part 3 is where things get legal. It thoughtfully outlines how to take testimony, how to question a suspect… and then how to torture the hell out of them. It gives rules and guidelines, like how the person being tortured has no right to know who actually accused them to begin with and how judges can lie in order to get the answers they want.

So next time you’re sitting down to watch Charmed, consider the lengths people used to go to to condemn a woman for doing anything they considered outside of the norm for the day. No matter what shenanigans Sabrina gets up to, she should consider herself damn lucky.



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I Love My Pop! Funko Doll

Groot Pop! DollFor the first time in my life, nerd culture has become mainstream. In many ways that is so awesome! It’s never been easier to be a fan girl. With that mainstream popularity comes merchandizing like we’ve never seen before. There are entire stores these days that sell nothing but fandom merch. Even big box stores like Target are filled with it! I’m not much of a chotchky sort of person. I hate clutter. But if I’m going to make an exception, it will be for a Pop! Funko Vinyl.

They are just about everywhere and I love them. That simple squarish face with those big eyes… it’s impossible to pass them up! My absolute favorite? Groot. I’ve got a total  crush on Groot, not gonna lie, and I’ve got two of these awesome goodies.

The Company and How it Got Started

Funko, creator of those adorable, huge-headed figures, was founded by Mike Becker in 1998. He originally wanted the it to be a small project with the goal of bringing back nostalgic, low-tech toys to help combat a world obsessed with high-tech doobobs. The very first Funko bobblehead toy was the Big Boy bobblehead because Becker was in the market for a vintage coin bank depicting the mascot, but couldn’t find one for a reasonable price. He decided to produce his own replica by outsourcing the construction to China. The company, creating bobbleheads, banks, and hand puppets, began from this one little figure. (Side note: Remember Big Boy? It turns out, they’re still around. I had no idea!)

Becker sold the company in 2005 to Brian Mariotti. Mariotti has more or less kept the dream alive, but they’ve increased the scope of the products ten-fold. Funko LLC has around 180 unique licenses from movies, TV, comics, video games, sports, and other cultural icons. They have licensing deals with all the biggest players:

Marvel     DC Comics     Lucas Film     Sony Pictures     Paramount     DreamWorks     Hasbro


Warner Bros     Disney     HBO     Peanuts     Ubisoft     2K Games     Bethesda Games     and more

Mariotti says it used to be hard getting companies to agree to sign on with them. But now, brands are banging down their doors to get their characters as a Pop!  The vinyl dolls are still their biggest seller,  the company made about $40 million in 2013. In 2016 that number was $425 million. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

The Products

The vinyl bobblehead dolls we’ve all come to love and recognize haven’t changed much over the years. The first few characters included Betty Boop, Cap’n Crunch, and The Cat in the Hat. Over the years, the dolls took on human characters, exaggerating the heads and eyes. They are 3.75 inches tall with a square head and rounded edges.

Now, you can find a Pop! Vinyl Doll of almost any character you can imagine, even minor characters. The dolls aren’t limited to fictional characters either. You can find Pop! Vinyl culture figures like Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and Tupac Pop-ified, too!

The vinyl dolls have branched out to include Mystery Minis, Hiraki, Legacy Collection, Mopeez, and Home & Accessories. The Home & Accessories collection specializes in ceramic mugs, which are basically just glass copies of the heads of popular figures, hollowed out with a handle on one side. Vinyl Sugar was announced at Toy Fair 2015, with offshoot lines including Dorbz, Vinyl Idolz, Vinyl Vixens, and Super Deluxe Vinyls.

From their first introduction at Comic Con in 2010, Pop! Funko Vinyl Dolls have blown up to include almost 3,000 unique pieces and 40 million units. They all have the recognizable Pop! Funko Vinyl style while boasting individual characteristics that make the character recognizable. They’re intensely collectable. Selling at only $10, you can build a huge collection quickly. There are also extremely rare, limited edition Pop! Vinyl Dolls. Funko created a Pop! Of JJ Abrams just for Kathleen Kennedy.

“You have to have the huge Walking Dead or Game of Thrones items that everyone wants, but you also need to do Firefly or Dodgeball. There are fans looking specifically for that and we might be the only company offering something to have on their desk,” says vice president of creative Ben Butcher. “It’s very important that we’re not just going for the big home runs.” Adds Mariotti: “If it doesn’t sell out, that’s okay. If everything was bottom line-generated, our line would be boring and probably wouldn’t be half as successful.” (I had to bold that out. It’s rare to find a company of this size that is willing to step out and take on a niche in this day and age.)

Next time you walk into a store that has Pop! Funko Vinyl dolls on display, take a closer look. It’s hard to come across a rare one and new reboots, new shows, and new movies mean Funko will never run out of source material. But know that each doll came from the singular idea to create something simple, fun, and cute for the fans.



Additional Info:

Ever Hear of Funko?
Funko on Wikipedia
The Incredible Rise of Funko Pop!

Writing Life Comic #11: A Mind of One’s Own

The truth is, some days writing a book is a bit like open warfare. You, the author, often have very particular ideas about what you want your characters to do, how you want them to do it, when and so on. You’d think, since you’re the writer, that you were in control. You’d be wrong.

Once characters emerge fully fleshed in the story they often develop a mind of their own. The story will sometimes teeter out of your control as your muse gives it a goddess-like shove in a direction you never intended. And your characters, well, they might have ideas of their own about how to act in a given situation.

Characters have a mind of their own

Meandering Through Cambodia

wandering through angkor wasGreetings readers! I’m off wandering through Cambodia right now. I’m looking for the Naga, the dragons of the Kmer people, and spending a surprisingly large chunk of time wondering if I can possibly bring myself to eat a tarantula. I might also be feasting on crab and seasoned with the best pepper in the world, napping or reading on a beach. Regardless, I’m not here right now, though you’ll see me feverishly posting pictures over on Facebook and Twitter during the small windows of time I have wifi.

I’ll be back with more blog posts mid-February. Until then, read on book worms. Read on.


I Hate Fan Theories

I hate fan theoriesI have a confession to make. I hate fan theories. Whether about film, television, books or any other medium, I can’t stand them.

I get it. I really do. When I fall in love with a book the first thing I want to do (after I mourn leaving the world behind of course) is find other people who loved it as much as I did. I want to talk about the characters, I want to get their thoughts on that store twist I wasn’t expecting or the plot tidbit that was not wrapped up at the end, and malign the big bad, or whatever. The point is, I want to connect with other readers who loved the book too. Read more

No Man’s Sky – A Review

No Man's Sky GameOk ok, I’m late to this game, I know. I’ve been resisting upgrading my gaming console for… well, forever, frankly. I was still using my Xbox 360 for fuck’s sake, so you know the last time I made a console purchase. I work full time and my evenings are spent working on my novels and my business so I don’t have a lot of extra time for gaming right now.

But… I’d been following the news about this game. I’m a tech geek, and the design of this game fired my imagination. For those of you that don’t know, No Man’s Sky is an action adventure survival game. It’s all about exploration, survival, combat and trading. None of this is particularly special, but what is unique is the 18 quintillion planets to discover and survive. I don’t even know how many zeroes that is. For the purposes of us mortals, that is essentially an infinite universe to explore. Read more

Reviews: The Rampart Guards and Wake of Vultures

The Rampart Guards, Wendy Terrien

The Rampart Guards Cover

I don’t know what I would do if my mother went missing and my dad moved me to a boring small town out in the middle of nowhere, but Jason Lex is forced to deal with this very reality in the pages of Wendy Terrien’s book The Rampart Guards.

What I like most about The Rampart Guards is that there really isn’t a bad guy. The real world is a complicated place. There are no purely evil people, and even the vilest of humans often see themselves as the hero of their own story. This is the sort of antagonist you find in The Rampart Guards. A complicated antagonist who believes most fervently they are doing the right thing by everyone they love. Read more