ARC Review: THE FIRST BINDING by J. J. Virdi

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on reddish pink blurred image
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: DNF at 25%
Series: yes - first book


Book cover for THE FIRST BINDING: title in fold on illustration of man looking over pin

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.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


In terms of narrative framing, the best example of a well known book that is similar to THE FIRST BINDING is THE NAME OF THE WIND. The main story is being told by the person who’s story it is, in a tavern setting. The main story is interspersed with returns to the tavern and the story being told in “real time.”

It’s an interesting framing method, but because this book is so big (over 800 pages) and very slow paced, it took a while to actually get to the “main” story. There are several meandering chapters of the narrator at a different tavern involved with telling world building stories and meeting the person he’s going to tell his story too.

That really slowed down the pacing for me, particularly as I wasn’t aware it was going to be a “I’m going to tell you a story” narrative framing. Thus I was struggling to find the hook or stake or goal of the book, as it did just feel like Ari was having fun telling tales without anything for me to invest in or root for. There is no threat or antagonist to play off, build tension, and hint at a plot progression, which are things I personally find important when getting into a book. Without those, I do struggle – which is entirely a personal narrative preference.

Once the story being told within the book begins, it starts off like a coming of age story. We go back in time to young Ari and watch him discover magic and begin learning about it. There was still no (major) antagonistic force, and it did just feel like a lot of “this is how magic works” explanation as he learnt. By that point, I was about 200 pages into the 800 page book, and decided that I wasn’t engaged enough to read another 600 pages, so DNF’d.

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