The First Binding by R.R. Virdi – Review

Published: August 16, 2022

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Tales of Tremaine #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 832 (Hardcover)

My Rating: DNF @ 27%

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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 is possibly the DNF that I have the hardest feelings about this year. To say I was hyped for a book described as a Southeast Asian-inspired Name of the Wind is an understatement. I was preparing to track down special editions and even started reading this a solid month before the release date because I couldn’t possibly wait any longer.

Long story short, I really hated it for a few reasons. The biggest, primary reason being that it felt like a total rip off of The Name of the Wind. When it was described I was picturing NOTW *vibes* or something gloriously inspired by one of my favorite books without feeling like a knock-off. Much to my chagrin, I couldn’t stop picking out these glaring similarities! It was like I was reading fan-fic. There were even similar names. Let’s have a quick run through of what I recall from the ~200 pages or so that I actually read.

  • Precocious boy raised in a community of socially outcast actors/performers
  • He learns stagecraft, voice training, sword play, and acrobatics from the older actors.
  • He gets a magical, older mentor who teaches him and the boy learns so, so quickly it’s astonishing! But, just because he’s clever doesn’t mean he’s wise! The mentor wants him to go off to magical school to hone his craft and become a master.
  • The young boy’s home and all those he cares about are destroyed before his eyes because people are simply telling the wrong sort of stories!
  • The beginning of the book starts in a cozy inn, with similar phrasing to the well-known NOTW opening/closing chapters.
  • Ari (our main character) meets a mysterious, lovely woman that he’s simply head over heels with at first encounter. She refuses her true name, but allows him to call her Eloine (Hm, awfully similar to Aloine from the Lay of Sir Savien Traliard from NOTW)
  • There are ten ancient bad guys who are awfully reminiscent of the Chandrian. 
  • Ari is on the run from his past and has taken up the guise of a wayward story-teller and even has a catchy bit of wording in the synopsis that sounds an awful lot like Kvothe’s in Name of the Wind.

I could pick out even more if I carefully went back through – this is just what a recall almost a month out from DNFing this book. I know I’m genuinely the odd one out on this since everyone else seems to be giving it 5 stars and loads of enthusiasm. I wish I loved this – I thought it would go down as a brand new favorite! I even put it down a few times, thinking I would try reading more the next day in hopes the characters would click with me and I would find myself speeding through, unable to put it down. I just felt like the author took all the major components from The Name of the Wind in a checklist and as he inserted them into his book with his own spin, he checked them off one by one. Totally not the book for me. I ultimately waited nearly a month to finally review this so my irritation and dislike would cool down!

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