Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead -- Day 2

The opening scene of Hood is, sadly a prologue, showing the main character, Bran (not Robin Hood!) as a child:

The pig was young and wary, a yearling boar timidly testing the wind for strange scents as it ventured out into the honey-coloured light of a fast-fading day. Bran ap Brychan, Prince of Elfael, had spent the entire day stalking the greenwood for a suitable prize, and he meant to have this one.

Eight years old and the king's sole heir, he knew well enough that he would never be allowed to go out into the forest alone. So rather than seek permission, he had simply taken his bow and four arrows early that morning and stolen from the caer unnoticed. This hunt, like the young boar, was dedicated to his mother, the queen.

She loved the hunt and gloried in the wild beauty and visceral excitement of the chase. Even when she did not ride herself, she would ready a welcome for the hunters with a saddle cup and music, leading the women in song. "Don't be afraid," she told Bran when, as a toddling boy, he had been dazzled and a little frightened by the noise and revelry. "We belong to the land. Look, Bran!" She lifted a slender hand toward the hills and the forest rising like a living rampart beyond. "All that you see is the work of our Lord's hand. We rejoice in his provision."

Stricken with a wasting fever, Queen Rhian had been sick most of the summer, and in his childish imaginings, Bran had determined that if he could present her with a stag or a boar that he had brought down all by himself, she would laugh and sing as she always did, and she would feel better. She would be well again.

All it would take was a little more patience and . . .

This is a short prologue (You can read the rest of it, along with part of the first chapter here. It begins to set the scene of a headstrong child bent on a treat for his ill mother. I'm curious, what do you think of this as an opener? Does it make you want to click the link and read a bit more?

Stephen Lawhead is by far not the only established author to use prologues, even while I hear a lot against them in writing circles. What do you think? Do you tend to read them or skip them?

For the record, Lawhead does not use the same device in writing Scarlet. The books are quite different, while continuing the main story. We'll have a look at the second book tomorrow.


John Ottinger III (Grasping for the Wind) said...

I love prologues in spec fic. It always intrigues me. I often read them before I walk out of a bookstore with a new book to try. If I'm intrigued, I buy it.

Prologues that give too much away are horrible, but are especially useful when an author plans to write a first person novel but needs to set up the character of the antithetical character to the hero. You can do so in the prologue without messing with the rest of the story imo.

Valerie Comer said...

Maybe that's why prologues are difficult? It's hard to give the right amount away and still make it feel relevant. Sometimes I find reading the prologue makes more sense after reading the book; then I can find the strange bits that were supposed to hook together. :P

chrisd said...

I do not mind prologues at all.

I read everything in the book. The pronunciation guide, the prologue. The afterward.

Yes, I liked a lot.

Jason said...

I always read a prologue. My WIP has an important prologue. Why not? Who loses out if they don't read it? Only the reader.

Rules, always rules. :)