Great Opening Lines… In Historical Fiction

In my previous role in a school library, Teachers’ would ask me for great opening lines of novels or books to share with their class. Over time I began to collate them according to genres and themes.

Once a week I will post some great opening lines from novels that can be used with your students in limitless ways. Prediction making, story starters, book trailer creation… They will be grouped in themes and genres to make referencing them easier.

Let’s begin with historical fiction.

The Children of the King – Sonya Hartnett

She heard it: footsteps in the dark. Cecily Lockwood, aged recently twelve, quailed in the darkness beneath her bed and listened to the steps coming closer. (pg.1)


The Black Dog Gang – Robert Newton

I often wonder what it is that draws certain people together – what makes some people click and not others. (pg.1)


Mao’s Last Dancer: Young Readers Edition – Li Cunxin

On the day of her marriage, eighteen year old Reiqing sits alone in her village home. It is a beautiful October morning, cool and fresh. (pg. ix)

Soldier Boy – Anthony Hill

In the late afternoon of 25 October 1915, a young Australian soldier – Private James Martin, aged only eighteen so his papers said – lay desperately ill with typhoid aboard a hospital ship, anchored off Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. He was wracked with fever and his thirst was terrible. (pg. 1)


Captain Cook’s Apprentice – Anthony Hill

The boy knew danger was coming. He could hear it, sitting on the prow of his ferryboat on the broad river Thames…a deep growl of angry water that grew louder as they neared the London Bridge. (pg.1)


A Girl Like me – Penny Matthews

Prelude – It was Father who gave me the news that Queen Victoria had died. I knew he was about to tell me something important, because he put his hand on my shoulder, and it was rare for him to touch me. (pg.1)


Lady Macbeth’s Daughter – Lisa Klein

Prologue – Whychelm Wood, Scotland. A.D. 1032

The nameless baby lay on the cold ground, wrapped in a woolen cloth. And owl hovered overhead and seemed to clutch a shred of cloud in its talons, drawing it across the moon like a blanket. (pg.1)

The Surgeon of Crowthorne – Simon Winchester

In Victorian London, even in a place as louche and notoriously crime-ridden as the Lambeth Marsh, the sound of gunshots was a rare event indeed. The Marsh was a a sinister place, a jumble of slums and sin that crouched, dark and ogre-like, on the bank of the Thames just across from Westminster; few respectable Londoners would ever admit to venturing there. (pg.1)


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