The First Binding
A Silk Road epic fantasy full of magic and mystery
by R.R. Virdi
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Pub Date 18 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 18 Aug 2022
Orion Publishing Group, Gollancz
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.
Thus begins the tale of a storyteller and a singer on the run and hoping to find obscurity in a tavern bar. But the sins of their past aren't forgotten, and neither are their enemies. Their old lives are catching up swiftly and it could cost them the entire world. No one can escape their pasts and all stories must have an ending.
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Average rating from 36 members
'There's a story behind everything and everyone - powerful tales, even if they don't seem it on the surface. There's power in stories. There's magic in them. And each person's life is a story itself, and with that, every person carries magic within them.'
The First Binding is an Asian inspired high fantasy that is intricate, compelling and enchanting. Essentially a story about the appreciation of stories, with rich world building, intriguing magic systems and diverse in religion and culture.
'It was said when Abrahm had been born, the sun and moon embraced, shrouding the world in a bright, dark light. A false midnight.'
The story starts with the building of anticipation within a tavern, as our main character Ari, the storyteller, sets the stage for a magical performance. Honestly, I felt like I was in the tavern and couldn't wait for the storyteller to begin! Virdi has such a way with words, they flow and ebb and it is just glorious to read. I feel so very lucky to have been given an ARC of this story.
Whilst in the tavern, Ari meets a mysterious singer named Eloine, who convinces him to tell her his story, his truth. We then embark on 2 separate (but joined) stories spanning Ari's life - his childhood and his present day. I struggled at first flitting from past to present as I was so engrossed in each story that I didn't want to be pulled out of them! There are so many stories within stories, adding layers and depth not only to the characters, but also the world and the magic.
The magic system is really fascinating. Built upon conviction, unwavering faith and strength of will, the Ten Bindings are more often than not believed only as myth. Some, very rare few, can actually master them. I loved learning about them - I would go into more detail but don't want to give too much away and spoil it!
Our main character Ari has such a troubled childhood. Each part of his life is filled with strife and hardship that no child should endure. You see firsthand how this shapes who he is as an adult - his personality, lifestyle, triggers, morality and motives. This book feels like it is setting the scene for an epic tale to come and I cannot wait - Virdi has me absolutely hooked.
beautiful and lyrical. the writing in this book was really good and i couldn’t put this down. i was so intrigued in the story that i read it in only a couple of sittings even though the novel is pretty long! the magic system, the representation, the characters, everything was just so fantastic. so excited to read the next books!
The First Binding is an unforgettable and memorable high fantasy debut by RR Virdi and a new highly anticipated series.
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.
This novel is a unique take on fantasy stories that holds firm in a genre where stories can become really stale really fast. My expectation of this shot up when it was compared to The Kingkiller Chronicles - a series that holds dear to me but Virdi has crafted a severe craving for this new story.
The lines are simply beautiful and the set up has sparked mystery from the very start. The chemistry between characters and the narrative context seep kindness, empathy and magic between every word. The way Virdi has concocted the time frames and highlighted these in the story itself is a highlight.
Virdi has astounded with his writing however the pacing felt slow at times. There was definite patience required when setting up the world and the lore but with a sentence that could be transformed. We see a master at their work setting up a mysterious and awe-inspiring story full of politics and magic.
Virdi has manipulated us into becoming invested in his own immersive performance. A lyrical piece that you should read and be drawn into itself. The Tales of Tremaine series is high on my anticipated list.
It took me a while to read this because I was scared to read this hefty book. However, I was not disappointed. This book follows a storyteller named Ari and his encounter with Eloine, a singer, where he told her his stories. South Asian-inspired fantasy was definitely something I wish I could read more and I'm glad that The First Binding was my first South Asian-inspired fantasy read. The world-building was very extensive and so intricately written that I was lost in the moment most of the time whenever I read this book. The writing was very beautiful and I was a sucker for poetic tunes in the words. The magic system was very well thought out and everything is connected to each other. I just love it. I might just buy the physical copy after this.
My gratitude to Net Galley for this free uncorrected copy as I could not wait until the publication date in August.
"The First Binding" is a massive undertaking which takes a bit of patience, but once you get immersed in this wonderful South Asian- inspired fantasy world, you never want to leave it.
Ari is a great traveling storyteller and his encounter with the enchanting singer Eloine brings us many stories rich in lore, bright protagonists, religious history, diversity and hidden clues, all delivered in a misterious tone and atmosphere.
The language is absolutely gorgeus with poetic notes and with a soothing flow.
The magic system is tied into mythology, belief and storytelling which shapes the world.
This is a great start to the "Tales of Tremaine" and I am so excited to see what else R. R. Virdi will have in sore for us.
It was great to read a competent South Asian protagonist in this story as I don't have so many still in fiction or even other media (Reader note: I am mixed, so this is important to me). We are so often seen as comedic relief or the nerdy type characters. Ari is not, and that is both inspiring and refreshing. He is gorgeously flawed, and you realize that the more you get through the book and the layers are peeled away from him. Why he acts the way does, what his masks are, and the beginnings of who he really is and how he came to be.
The story shifts to the past around the first ten chapters, and then you begin learning about Ari's past. We are taken to the Mutri Empire (what is Virdi's South Asian inspired empire). It was wonderful as a South Asian to see through his eyes and something familiar to me being done in fiction and on the epic fantasy size/scope (because this is a big book). The worldbuilding is phenomenal and I loved it, and the magic system is something I haven't seen before.
This book completely nails the idea of a traveling story teller, and another reviewer notes on that - comparing the performance the singer of Iron Maiden. These people were the rockstars of their day, but unlike many who indulge in the sex, drugs, rock and roll lifestyle, Ari, is not who he seems. There is the Storyteller, and then there is Ari, the man behind the performance in public. And as the story goes on, we get to see more and more behind that.
ARC was provided by the publishers—Tor Books & Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.
The First Binding is a South Asian inspired high fantasy debut reminiscent of The Name of the Wind. I walked into the book in search of the most important thing in the world of escapism. An unforgettable story. And I ended up swept into one of the most memorable ones.
"All stories are true from a certain point of view. But, I know you want a clearer answer than that. To be honest, I don't. But I'd like to think so. I've often thought that might be the most important part of belief and stories, choosing to believe the pieces we want. Otherwise, what good and fun are they?"
The year 2022 so far has been full of great reads for me; in all the books I’ve read in the past four months, none of them received anything below a 4-stars rating. But there was a downside to this. Despite all the wonderful books I’ve read this year, there was only one book (Illborn by Daniel T. Jackson) that received a full 5/5 stars rating from me so far this year. The First Binding will be the second one. I haven’t read anything by R.R. Virdi before this book. And still, The First Binding made it to my list of most anticipated books of 2022 due to its gorgeous cover art by Felipe de Baros and its strikingly similar blurb to one of my favorite books of all time: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Despite the immense popularity and praises for The Kingkiller Chronicle, I can count with my hands the number of superb fantasy books/series that utilize the same framing narrative as The Kingkiller Chronicle did. I cannot get enough of it. Framing narrative is one of my favorite types of narrative to read in a fantasy book, and The First Binding is another example of an excellent framing narrative usage.
"Stories have grains of truths hidden within them. The problem is pieces and things are lost to time and translation, especially when told distance and traded through different languages. But there are always kernels to find. The wise one knows how to do so."
Before I get to the meat of the long review, I need to mention, first and foremost, that Rothfuss didn't invent the framing narrative in the fantasy genre. He popularized it for modern fantasy, and he's in my opinion a master at it, but he didn't create it. It is easy to immediately call a newly released fantasy book that uses a framing narrative as The Name of the Wind inspired. Sometimes that's rightfully deserved, but the opposite tends to occur more frequently. I will, however, say as a huge fan of The Kingkiller Chronicle, whether it’s subconsciously or not from the author, The First Binding is HEAVILY inspired by, at least, The Name of the Wind. I could list you all the similarities, but that would end up spoiling things for readers who haven't read The Name of the Wind and The First Binding. Basically, almost all the key events that happened to Kvothe in his past timeframe told in The Name of the Wind happened to Ari as well, one way or another, almost in the exact chronological order. But this isn't me claiming The First Binding straight up copied Rothfuss's debut novel. I mean, there’s even an Easter Egg to The Name of the Wind in the book!
"I made my way to the bed, setting my belongings down at one side. My
hands went to one of the journals I always carried, turning it open with a brush from my thumb. An old and familiar story flashed before me and I smiled.
It was of a red-haired boy who grew to be a man many thought a demon. Partly on account of his odd hair color, but more so for the deeds he came to be known for and by. By the end of it all, they say he killed a prince. Some say a king. Wizard. Bard. Hero. A villain.
The world saw it easier to mark him both, none, and sometimes, pick between depending on the day. Only he knew the truth.
And now I found myself understanding why he never told us the true accounting of things."
As I said, The First Binding is definitely inspired by The Name of the Wind, but there are enough originalities and distinctions unique to this novel that helped The First Binding stand strong as its own thing. All of this is to say, if you don't like The Kingkiller Chronicle, I doubt you will like this one, too. This review is almost four months ahead of the book’s publication date, and I feel it’s important to set the right expectations for future readers as best as I can. But if you're a fan of The Kingkiller Chronicle, like me, and you crave a dose of the magic told in The Kingkiller Chronicle again, well, The First Binding is for you. And let me tell you why.
“Everyone wants their story to matter, and they do. But people forget that. Everyone wants someone, just that right someone, to listen attentively with wonder and happiness to the greater moments of their life. And everyone wants someone who’ll sit by and listen without judgment over the moments we fell. Especially when we’ve gone too far, at least for ourselves.
I think I found that person in Eloine.”
The First Binding is the first book in the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi, and although this is not the author’s first published book, this is indeed his first high fantasy novel, and the genre is better off with Virdi’s contribution to it. The stories in The First Binding revolves around Ari, the Storyteller. The novel begins with a beautiful passage about stillness, silence, and its breaking in a similar fashion to A Silence of Three Parts in The Kingkiller Chornicle. And then, within the Three Tales Tavern in the current (the present) time frame, Ari encounters a mysterious singer on the run that he named Eloine. As their chemistry with each other sparked, Ari then proceeded to tell her the truths behind his many deeds, fame, and titles/names. Right from his childhood, entirely told through his first-person POV. It's worth noting that the past timeframe itself didn't begin until page 80, and my recommendation to you is to be patient. The narrative jumps back and forth between the past and present time frame, and I enjoyed reading both time frames, but the main highlights of the storytelling strengths in The First Binding undoubtedly lie in the past time frame. It is a novel about coming-of-age, found family, kindness, empathy, storytelling, magic, truth, and lies. And most of all, The First Binding is a novel about stories and their importance.
“The hardest thing anyone has to go through in their lives is exactly that, Dannil. It is the hardest thing for them. No one can take that away from them. No one can dismiss it out of hand. We are, all of us, given the difficulties we are, and it’s not our place to try to put the hardships of others into places of value. They are hard. That is enough. And they need a place to forget those hardships. And so do you.”
One of the many ways Virdi renewed the intensity and the compelling factor of the book was by frequently emphasizing how easily stories and legends get twisted, voluntarily or not, from their origin. Whether we realize it or not, in telling a story to someone, little by little, a story could transform constantly. This is how Ari earned his many titles. There is truth to his names, but the audience's ignorance and willingness to submit themselves to a specific story also played a huge part. When a story has been told multiple times, will an individual choose to believe the truth revealed that differs from the story they're used to, or will they choose to believe in the familiar stories they know? One of my favorite books, Dreams of the Dying by Nicolas Lietzau, mentioned: “Once the mind commits to a story, the facts become secondary. Truth bows to bias.” And I do honestly believe there is a lot of accuracy to this statement. This is also what Virdi highlighted a lot in The First Binding, and I loved it.
"Knowledge. The first things told and recorded were stories. Not great started with stories-lore-and the tales those people told their families first, before letting them spread wider in the world. You eventually learn everything is a story of something. A story of empires fallen and the ones that took their place. Stories of great men... and the worst of them. Stories of bindings and how they came to be, or how we think they did, and stories of how coinage systems work. But they are all stories first. Before any of the facts, the first keepers of knowledge kept stories."
And great stories are not exclusive to Ari. Powerful tales exist behind everything and every individual, and all of them are unique depending on your perspective. After all, there is a story behind everything and everyone. But for the purpose of reviewing this book, we will, of course, be talking about the main character, Ari. It has been a few years since I've reread The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss or Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. And my goodness, I forgot how satisfying it can be to witness the truth behind the attainment of a specific title or fame. For example, Ari mentioned that he buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow before he started telling about his past. Then he killed their god. We, readers, get the opportunity to read these events, and personally speaking, I highly enjoyed reading every revelation behind Ari's fame so far.
“Names are parts of our story. The ones we are given, the ones we choose to use, and the ones we let others call us by or gift to them. Together, they form parts of us and our identity, and with that knowing, you come to understand the heart of that person. And a heart, like many things, can be bound.”
Finding out why Ari earned the title of Khoone (Bloodletter) or Unburned, among his many names, was rewarding to me. Ari is thick-headed, quick to anger in his journey for revenge, and obsessive about learning. I have no doubt that whether this book will click with readers or not will depend a lot on the prose (I will get to this later) and whether they could overlook Ari's brilliance and flaws to feel invested with him. I personally could. We can tell that Ari as a storyteller in the present timeline is of legendary status. But Ari, in the past timeframe, has suffered a LOT. Similar to Kvothe, his brilliance is balanced frequently by his torment, especially during his time as a Sparrow in the streets of Keshum. Or even the bullying and prejudice he has to overcome in the fabled Ashram. He learned, multiple times, the hard way that there shouldn't be a cost to kindness.
“Bondage isn’t done with ropes and chains. No. It’s done with honeyed whispers and poisoned promises never meant to be kept. And if you follow them—believe them—you may never live long enough to realize those promises and dreams on your own.”
I found Ari's pursuit of knowledge, Bindings, and the art of storytelling to be admirable. Though he is prone to anger, he can't keep his mouth shut most of the time, but Ari has some appealing qualities to him, especially in kindness which he proved time and time again to his friends. Ari's friendship with the member of The Sparrows and Ashram, especially Radi, were some of my favorite scenes to read in the book. I think with coming-of-age fantasy with a magic school (yes, Ashram is a magic school) setting, it is mandatory for the main character to be accompanied by precious friends who genuinely care about each other. It's even more necessary when there's a rich and spoiled bully (like Ambrose from The Kingkiller Chronicle) in the book. Ari got that friendship in Radi, and hey, have I mentioned there's an animal companion for Ari, too? A stray cat named Shola, and what a riot Shola is.
“Is he here to perform? Even though I hadn’t developed a keenness for music at that point in my life, I wanted to see my friend in the heart what he loved most. It was right, and more than that, I owed it to him. But, there is a simpler reason well—a better one.
He was my friend.
And that is always reason enough.”
I should note that if you're starting this book expecting a lot of actions or battle scenes, it is very likely that you'll find yourself disappointed by it. The First Binding is not a novel with many battle scenes, it did contain a few battle scenes in the last quarter, but battle scenes and actions were not the main charms of the book. The First Binding do, however, have more than enough intrigues, manipulations, and so many mysteries in its rich mythologies to strengthen the core of the narrative. I actually think the Game of Families at the end of the present timeframe was the least captivating part of this entire book for me. The Game of Families was not bad per se, but it fell in quality compared to Ari's retelling of his past. I certainly loved the kite fighting more, and I cannot wait to read more revelations of Ari’s names in the next book.
“There’s something to be said in practicing old skills, no matter how impractical they might seem. Trials a lifetime ago had taught me nothing ever loses its usefulness. And that being prepared pays well, sometimes in saving one’s life.”
To put it as simply as possible, it feels appropriate for me to claim The First Binding as The Name of the Wind inspired novel infused with a South-Asian world-building. The world-building, the magic system, and the prose are the factors that transformed The First Binding to be its own thing. The world is extremely rich in its myth and history, and there is a myriad of room for theory-crafting if you're into that. The stories within stories were enchanting. Reading every section about Ashura (think of Ashura in the book as a mix of The Chandrian and Halifax), Brahm (The Creator in Trimurti), Abrahm, Radhivahn, and more were alluring. The Indian-inspired Mutri Empire and the brutality of the caste system felt well-realized. And lastly, the magic that revolves around the principles of faith and beliefs proved to be a good decision. The binding is a combination of soft and hard magic systems influenced heavily by the power to believe. This means the user must REALLY believe in something even when the reality is different than intended. Essentially, it is like rewriting reality. For example, fire always burns, but a successful binding can turn the burn effect into freezing when they truly believe in it. The foldings and the bindings were complex, and they never failed to be interesting to me.
“Believing is easy. And it’s the hardest thing ever. Just forget everything you’ve learned about how the world works, and believe it works how you want it to, no matter what. And no matter the cost.”
I loved this book. This book is 800 pages and 350,000 words long, but I never felt bored reading it. I felt distraught the sequel is not available for me to read yet. The First Binding is Virdi’s first high fantasy performance, and the immersive stories he put on this tome have ensured him a spot as a high fantasy author to keep an eye out for. I thoroughly enjoyed Virdi’s accessible and lyrical prose. I shared many quotes in this review, but I actually highlighted more than 40 passages in the book. I wish I could share them with you, but I will leave the rest for you to read and find out for yourself.
“Belonging is one of the oldest calls and cries our hearts make. And when they go unheard, pain fills those empty spaces. It makes that part of us go distant—grow cold. Ice forms and it’s ever harder to let anyone ever come into those places again.”
My instinct says the sequel will be even better. If that’s indeed the case, it’s only a matter of time until Virdi and the Tales of Tremaine will be remembered for many years to come. The First Binding is the first volume in a new magnificent and ambitious high fantasy series to obsess over, and I can see myself coming back to this world multiple times. The First Binding even made me pause playing Elden Ring for a week. Let that sink in. It requires something exceptional to stop me from playing that masterpiece, and Virdi’s high fantasy debut fulfilled the requirements. If you are a fan of The Kingkiller Chronicle or keen to read a great take on framing narrative, be kind to yourself and the author by pre-ordering and reading this incredible book when it’s out. Tor Books promised to get R.R. Virdi a Trex with a laser beam cannon if The First Binding attained 100,000 pre-orders. Let’s get Virdi his Trex.
“Kindness is freely given, without the want of reciprocation, let, obligation, or lien.”
You can pre-order this book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Blackwells (Free International shipping)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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One of my favourite reads of the year!
Is this book better than The Kingkiller Chronicle? Well, I don’t know because I haven’t read Kingkiller yet. But I will say that this book was a pretty good read. Let’s talk about it!
The First Binding is one of the most anticipated releases coming in 2022 and is being “marketed” as an Asian-inspired high fantasy, similar to The Name of the Wind. However, this review will not discuss whether this book is similar to Kingkiller Chronicle since I haven’t read that series yet. If you are interested in knowing whether those comparisons are fair, I recommend reading Petrik Leo’s review of this book. That being said, I really enjoyed my time with this book!
It took me about 100 pages to get fully immersed in this book. However, I am glad I didn’t give up on this book. Virdi has an astounding ability to write beautiful sentences, vivid scenes and compelling characters. It took me nearly a month to finish this book, only because I wanted to savour and enjoy each page.
The story follows Ari as he tells his life story to a singer named Eloine, and the story starts all the way back at Ari’s childhood. I absolutely LOVED how Virdi has set up this story. You have two main storylines, “present” and “past”, but within these two plotlines, we also learn about beautiful and heartbreaking folkore stories and mythology. While most of the story focuses on telling Ari’s story, the present plotline still has a lot of tension. Ari is not an old man when he tells Eloine his life story, and he is still on a quest which adds another layer of tension to the “present” plotline.
Consequently, The First Binding has multiple chapters where you have a story within a story within a story. Each story told is rich with detail, tension and riveting dialogue, which adds so much depth to this world. Although we don’t get that much insight into the greater world, this world felt so rich and real since Virdi intently fleshes out the tales about the Gods and the different supernatural beings. The magic system is also incredibly fascinating and rich with detail and plays a significant role in the story.
One of the reasons why this story worked so well for me is because it utilises a lot of my favourite tropes. The First Binding is, at its core, a coming-of-age/underdog story with the found family and pet companion trope (and LOTS more!). Consequently, this is an Asian-inspired fantasy, which is one of my current favourite subgenres in fantasy.
However, this book will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Virdi has a unique writing style, with many poems and beautiful sentences, and the pacing is incredibly slow. The First Binding is arguably the slowest-paced book I have read this year, and I have already read three Robin Hobb books!! The crazy part is that after finishing this 800+ page tome, it feels like the story is only just about to start. The pacing did not bother me since Virdi was able to get me fully immersed and invested in Ari’s story and this world. However, I could see readers either love or hate this book. Either this story will work incredibly well with you, or it won’t. However, I would suggest giving the first 100 pages a try before giving up on the story.
I could go on and on about this story, but I will end my review by saying this – if you enjoy slow-paced, character-driven stories with beautiful prose, this book will be for you! The First Binding is a new favourite of mine, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out!
4.5 / 5 stars
I fell instantly in love with the lyrical language R.R. Virdi uses in "The First Binding". I enjoyed everything about this book (the story, setting, characters), but the writing glowed in my mind. It's nothing short of beautiful. This is a slow-paced book, but it really doesn't need to be any faster. This is one to sink yourself into and simply enjoy the ride. I hope book 2 won't be too far in the future.
My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
Thank you Orión Publishing Group and NetGalley for the arc of The First Binding by RR Virdi in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Firstly, don’t let the size of this book at 850+ pages put you off. RR Virdi has created an enthralling tale that totally pulls you in and doesn’t let go.
The book itself is an analogy of stories, that takes you through Ari’s life in a totally immersive manner. And yes, I can’t deny the sense of similar fantasies such as Name of the Wind, that others have referred to. However, Virdi is a master at building the tension in a gentle, unhurried manner that has you wondering if you’re about to reach the peak, that he then diffuses beautifully, pulling you back in until once again you are at the brink…and yes, those analogies do come to mind. 😂
This is not a book to hurry, this is a book to savour, to cruise along gently and take time to enjoy the sights and stories, and subsequently reflect on them and discover the subtle nuances of the stories, the world building and the overall structure.
If you’re looking for a book that will pull you along like a roaring wildfire or crescendo of noise, this isn’t the book you are looking for, but if you are looking for a high fantasy filled with fantastic world building, a multitude of multi-faceted stories, characters with depth, myth, mystery and more, then I urge you to pick this book up.
I’m already totally invested in Ari and I can’t wait to see what comes next, but please for the love of Brahm RR Virdi, include a summary at the start of the sequel.
An absolute 5 star read for me!
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