Creating Scary Antagonists and the Anti-Hero | Learning from ‘Neverwhere’

Author Neil Gaiman

This post does not contain any spoilers.

Genre – Dark, urban fantasy

This book was written while Gaiman was writing for a BBC television show of the same name and was first published in 1997. This edition is his ‘preferred text’ and is the first Neil Gaiman book I have read.

Book Blurb

…Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in the Neverwhere–a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth…

Although, the blurb is much longer than what I included above, I found this line gives the gist of the book. This was Gaiman’s first novel and it is the first of ten successful fantasy books that he wrote for adults. He’s also written books for ‘all ages’ as well.

 First Line

Prologue: The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.

Chapter 1: She had been running for days now, a harum-scarum tumbling flight through passages and tunnels.

The first sentence of the short prologue sets Richard up as the antihero. He is a man who is not someone to take charge or take risks. He reminds me of Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a blank protagonist. Is this a British thing? He also refuses to see the facts in front of him because of their implausibility. In fact, one of the best lines of the book displayed Richard’s stubbornness–or more likely, his ineptitude. One of the characters says this to Richard:

What a refreshing mind you have, young man… There really is nothing like total ignorance is there?

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Learning from the Book Blurb and First Line of ‘Throne of Glass’

Author Sarah J. Maas

This post does not contain any spoilers.

Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

The book has a kick-ass cover. Apparently, the American version is not the same as this one? Why the publishers would do that when this cover is so dramatic, I will never know.

Book Blurb

Thone of Glass Cover

TWO MEN LOVE HER

THE WHOLE LAND FEARS HER

ONLY SHE CAN SAVE THEM ALL

In a world without magic, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the viscous king who rules from his throne of glass but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she will be released from prison to serve as the King’s Champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a faraway land with befriend her. But something evil dwells in teh castle–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival–and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

This is a great blurb. The first three sentences, centered at the top, set the tone. This is a serious book with serious consequences for failure: a romance within a dangerous setting. Not only are lives at risk but so are hearts. In the first paragraph, we learn about the protagonist, her circumstances and the setting.

The second paragraph increases the tension with effective phrasing: ‘fight for survival’, ‘desperate quest’ and ‘root out the evil’. The situation seems untenable. The question the reader ends up asking is: Why is she the only one who can save everyone? Will she succeed?

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