I just started Quentins and I can already tell that it's going to be good. I always appreciate it when an author begins a story with a conversational tone. While some of my favorite books break this rule, most of them tend to stick to it.
I think this is because the best authors know that when you visit a place in a book, you're there to get to know people. You don't necessarily know who those people are yet, and you may not even know that they are
why you've come, but whether you realize it or not, they're what's going to keep you turning pages in the beginning. While there are many wonderful stories that begin with long histories of the places you're about to encounter, I think these authors tend to be missing the point. The book may turn out well in the end, but I'd have felt much less like I was having to fight to stay interested if you'd begun with something simple. Even one of the most epic fantasies ever written begins with, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." Tolkien's most impressive and well-remembered achievement was the world he built, but he still knew that he needed characters to draw people into that world before they could love it. Page through the Silmarillion and imagine trying to get interested in it without ever having met Bilbo, Frodo or Gandalf.
Quentin's begins thus: When Ella Brady was six, she went to Quentins. It was the first time anyone had called her Madam. A woman in a black dress with a lace collar had led them to the table. She had settled Ella's parents in and then held out a chair for the six-year-old.
'You might like to sit here, Madam, it will give you a full view of everything,' she said.
This sort of thing is, to me, worth any amount of sweeping prose, or any number of grand histories. I'm sure that, long before the book is over, I'll love Quentins itself. But I'm glad this is the sort of author who realizes that in order to make the a place appealing, it's often best to put it aside for a while.