First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Hope everyone UK based is enjoying the long weekend! Today’s first line comes from a book I just managed to get out of the library and which I’m so excited to read, having read some of the author’s children’s fiction before and loved it.

The Line

“She heard there was bread in the square.”


Hint #1: This is historical fiction, set in Strasbourg.

Hint #2: The first sentence is seemingly simple, but the city square mentioned is crucial to the plot…

Hint #3: …and why is it crucial? Because women start dancing there, and cannot stop.

The Reveal!

The Dance Tree, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Blurb (from PanMacmillan)

Strasbourg, 1518. In the midst of a blisteringly hot summer, a lone woman begins to dance in the city square. She dances for days without pause or rest, and as she is joined by hundreds of others, the authorities declare an emergency. Musicians will be brought in to play the Devil out of these women.

Just beyond the city’s limits, pregnant Lisbet lives with her mother-in-law and husband, tending the bees that are their livelihood. And then, as the dancing plague gathers momentum, Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from seven years’ penance in the mountains for a crime no one will name.

It is a secret that Lisbet is determined to uncover. As the city buckles under the beat of a thousand feet, she finds herself thrust into a dangerous web of deceit and clandestine passion, but she is dancing to a dangerous tune . . .

Set in an era of superstition, hysteria, and extraordinary change, and inspired by the true events of a doomed summer, The Dance Tree is an impassioned story of family secrets, forbidden love, and women pushed to the edge.