The First Binding, Tales of Tremaine Book 1

Book Reviews / Sunday, October 16th, 2022

By R.R. Virdi
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: MacMillan/Tor-Forge

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“This is not a story of only wonder and horror. Of heroism and the moments I’ve fallen far short into villainy. It is, in its whole, a tragedy…This is the truth of why most people fear the real me”
Elione squeezed my shoulder tight, looking at me with burning resolution in her eyes. “I’m not afraid of you.” …
“You should be. Now let me tell you why.”

R.R. Virdi, The First Binding

So begins the story of Ari in R.R. Virdi’s masterful epic fantasy, The First Binding. It is the story of a sullied orphan, working special effects for a theater troupe, hoping to perform someday, and perhaps rising above his caste. It’s more than just Ari’s story of his life, it’s also the story of the woman he tells it too. A mysterious woman who will not reveal her name, a woman who Ari gives the name Elione, until perhaps she will one day give it to him. The First Binding is epic fantasy at its finest. With its unique magic and sprawling South Asian setting, it certainly was a refreshing change from the all too often Euro-centric fantasy worlds. The character development was simply fantastic, from the main protagonists, Ari and Eloine, to a lengthy list of supporting characters. There was something that immediately drew me to Ari as soon as he walked into the Three Tales Tavern in the first chapter. He exuded confidence that leaped off the pages, and I was mesmerized by not only the story of his past, but the life he leads in the present. Ari’s past takes us from the underground of the stage, to the street gang, the Sparrows, and to Ashram, the school where he learns magic. This is seamlessly woven into his present life, as his journey is still continuing. The First Binding was beautifully written, there were twists and turns I never expected, and I was enthralled with the tale that Mr. Virdi wrote.

Despite what the reader can only assume is a very tumultuous past, Ari presents himself as a man who is searching for inner peace. He does not immediately begin telling his story until he meets Eloine. I thought this was an excellent choice, as we see who Ari has become now, which seems a juxtaposition of his past. It’s important as well to establish his relationship with Eloine. While we don’t know her name, they get to know each other before he reveals his innermost secrets. She is not a random stranger who asks for his life story and he simply tells it to her. Ari and Eloine have an immediate connection, and there is definitely chemistry between the two, albeit frustrating for Ari at times. When we meet him, he travels at will weaving fascinating tales with both his magic and natural storytelling abilities. Ari is known as the storyteller, not any storyteller, but The Storyteller. His reputation makes him welcome at taverns and inns, where he earns his living and brings in money for the establishment. I love the complexity of Ari’s character as Mr. Virdi brings him to life. We can tell he is special at the outset of the book.

“I walked into the tavern in search of the most important thing in the world.
A story. …
The worst sort of prison held the Three Tales Tavern.
An emptiness.
A stillness.
And that is always meant to be broken. …
It was the soundlessness of men to tired to speak and with an ear to hear even less. And all the stillness of an audience waiting for the play to begin.”

R.R. Virdi, The First Binding

The pacing and prose were perfect for me. The story is told from Ari’s perspective, with exception a few chapters that we see Elione’s from a third person narrative. There was no rush for Ari to tell his story, and he never planned too. His past was not something he seemed eager to talk about. As he said in the quote in the beginning, he is man who is many things, a man who is not just a storyteller, but a man to be feared. I loved how Mr. Virdi wrote The First binding and paced it so that we are introduced to both Ari and Eloine, as well as those he comes to know in the present. It was important to establish for the reader who this man is and why he is feared, as we certainly do not see this side of him. Ari becomes friends with the owner of the Three Tales Tavern, Dannil. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is that it is many stories within the main story of Ari. He listens, for he knows everyone and everything has a unique tale behind it. The smallest and most inconsequential objects are important to someone, and Ari has a way of quietly drawing out the meaning behind them. How Mr. Virdi wrote was almost poetic and certainly beautiful in the way that Ari sees these things. Ari is patient, and knows just the right questions to ask to hear the story of Dannil’s life. It’s not just Dannil, he has the uncanny ability to patiently draw out the stories of others. However, the only person who remains elusive is Eloine.

“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”
R.R. Virdi, The First Binding

The magic system was very unique, and where the title of the book comes from. I can best describe the binding is meditative. The mind form folds to hold a mental picture of an object, then using a spell, the biding is released. I found it incredibly imaginative, using folds in the mind to release magic. Personally, this magic would never work for me. I can’t meditate since I can’t sit still and concentrate on one thing for that long. Ari, however, has a natural affinity for it. The more folds the mind can make, the more powerful the spell. There are ten bindings, and we know he can call fire. He uses this first binding, fire, very carefully and controlled in his stories. It is at the Ashram where we see Ari train further in the magic of the bindings. As a sullied caste student in this school, he is the target of animosity by those who believe he shouldn’t be there. Ari, being young and impulsive, always plots against those who wrong him. It is often subtle, but effective since he is smart and clever. His goal is to learn all ten bindings, but there must be a story behind that knowledge as well. I was drawn into Ari’s story from the first page, and Mr. Virdi has certainly left me wanting to know more. I highly recommend The Fist Binding, a beautifully written epic fantasy.

“Bit by bit, belief and bindings vanished, leaving my mind as clear and empty as the surface of a pond after the spring’s thaw. …It all dwindled-dimmed, then died. The Three Tales Tavern returned to stillness and darkness. …
The story ended.
I pulled my cowl low so no one could see my face.
And I wept.”

R.R. Virdi, The First Binding

Overall Thoughts
The First Binding is an exquisite epic fantasy of the life of Ari, a sullied caste orphan whose life unfolds on the pages on this book. I was drawn in from the first page and didn’t want his story to end. Mr. Virdi created many stories within the main story of Ari’s past, as he tells it to a woman named Eloine. We meet him at a point in the present where he travels at will, and has become a renowned storyteller. Not just any storyteller, but The Storyteller, using magic and his natural talent to captivate audiences. Ari is confident in his ability, but this peaceful life contradicts a past that he prefers not to remember. The book does not immediately start out with Ari delving into his life story. We must first get to know him, and Eloine as well. Ari is not a man to tell his secrets to anyone who asks. The character development is spot on, as we get to know as much of the mysterious Eloine as she will reveal. As they get to know each other, their chemistry is palpable, but at times frustrating, which adds another level to the narrative. There were many twists and turns that I enjoyed because they were more than surprising. In The First Binding, Mr. Virdi has written a book with prose that is often poetic, and characters that are exceptionally well-developed. The First Binding is an engrossing and I was drawn in from the first page. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to hearing more of Ari’s story. You will not be disappointed.

“We are all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” Stephan Moffat

Summary (from NetGalley)
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.

My sincere thanks to MacMillan/Tor-Forge and NetGalley for providing me with an eBook ARC for The First Binding
To find out more about R.R. Virdi please visit his website at
Purchase The First Binding on Amazon

R.R. Virdi is a USA Today Bestselling author, two-time Dragon Award finalist, and a Nebula Award finalist. He is the author of two urban fantasy series, The Grave Report, and The Books of Winter. The author of the LitRPG/portal fantasy series, Monster Slayer Online. And the author of a space western/sci fi series, Shepherd of Light. He has worked in the automotive industry as a mechanic, retail, and in the custom gaming computer world. He’s an avid car nut with a special love for American classics.

The hardest challenge for him up to this point has been fooling most of society into believing he’s a completely sane member of the general public.

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