Book Review: The First Story

The First Story by C. Bradley Owens


Matt lives to write stories. And those stories might be the only thing keeping his best friend alive after school bullies brutally attack him for being gay. At the side of John’s hospital bed, Matt weaves together tales in the hopes of waking him from his coma before it’s too late…

Storytelling itself comes to life in the world of Creativity. When unexpected changes cause chaos there, personified character archetypes known as Aspects must find the source before everything they know is lost. They suspect that someone has stolen the most powerful thing in all of Creativity: the First Story. But who is powerful enough to wield it?

Follow the Aspects as they journey through an ever-changing series of folktales, ghost-stories, tragedies, comedies, classic fantasy, and modern science fiction to piece the clues together. If the Aspects cannot trust in reality—or even their own memories—can they work together to find the thief and restore their world?


I received an Advance Review Copy from the publishers. The honest opinions in this review are all my own and are given voluntarily.


I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

This book has been rated as suitable for age 14+ by the publishers A4A Publishing. Visit their content rating page for more information.

It’s appropriate for any adults, and involves a contemporary world setting in a hospital, intermixed with a fantasy world setting. The book includes some violence and has LGBT themes.


This is an intriguing fantasy read framed by a contemporary story set in the real world. When John is beaten up and ends up in a coma in hospital, Matt uses the stories they had begun to create together as a device to wake John up.

The framing story manages to paint a picture of John’s non-acceptance by his family in a subtle way, despite rarely moving out of the hospital. In many ways, this book reminds me of a grown up version of The Never Ending Story (of which I have only seen the movie, not read the book). The fantasy story is a device used by Matt to sort out his real world problems. Like The Never Ending Story, Matt’s characters go on journey in order to find out who is destroying their world and how it can be stopped. As the story progresses, Matt uses the story of the fantasy world to set his own head straight and deal with John’s coma.

The fantasy story is very inventive. It takes us on an epic journey, meeting multiple characters who make up the realm of Creativity (which is basically Matt’s created fantasy world). The characters each have various stories, but they interact outside of these stories as Aspects or Elements. These Aspects band together when they tell their stories and find changes being made. Why are their stories being changed, by whom, and for what purpose?

There’s a huge mix of different types of characters, from The Growl in the Night, to the Puppeteer (basically Pinocchio), Frau Hiver (a scary ghostly lady), to Baba Vedma (a grumpy elderly woman) and many others. These are not the typical groups of characters you would pick to represent fantasy worlds, and this makes the story come over as very original.

As the story draws to a close, the two plots draw closer and come to a satisfying conclusion. I’m a sucker for good endings, and this one ticked all the right boxes for me. I won’t say more, because I hate to give spoilers, but it’s definitely worth the ride.


Whilst I enjoyed this book a lot, I have to say it was a bit of a slow burn. Because we’re introduced to a lot of different stories relating to the fantasy characters to start with, it took me a while to get into it. So give it a chance. It took me to about the 25% mark before I had a strong grip on all the characters and the fantasy world plot. All the little stories made it feel a tad disjointed at first.

The fantasy plot relating to the First Story itself is a little vague. It works on what I’d call a soft magic system, where magical things happen rather than being explained explicitly. You have to accept this is the case and go with the flow to enjoy the book.

I’d have liked a little more background to Matt and John, perhaps flashbacks to earlier in their lives, to get more of a grip on what John went through on a daily basis and how it affected Matt. The framing story got over what it needed to well, but felt a little thin at times in terms of detail and getting to know the characters, especially as John was in a coma for most of it.


This is a well-written original novel with a style all its own. You know they say writers shouldn’t use adverbs? C Bradley Owens throws that out the window and owns it. Once you get used to the slightly lyrical style, and the dreamlike nature of some of the sections, you’ll enjoy where the book goes. I recommend it to people who enjoy both fairy-tale style fantasy and fantasy with a modern twist.


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