The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.


Synopsis

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

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Review

“We do not live to endure. We endure so someday we can . . . live. I have endured a great deal, but there have only been a few moments when I have truly lived.”
A female warrior, pregnant with her lover's child, is turned away and forsaken, giving birth to her son in the Temple Wood. Her brother finds her as she bleeds out. Hurt and bitter, she carves out runes in the Earth, cursing the man who turned her away - her son will be his only child; her son will be incredible; her son will be Saylok's salvation; and Saylok will have no more daughters. She tasks her brother with taking care of her son with her dying breath, naming him Bayr. And with her life's blood powering the runes, it shall be done... The First Girl Child was a story about excruciating pain, tremendous loss, overwhelming triumphs, endless hope, and soaring love. There was so many things and so many people to love that I had no choice but to give this book all the stars!!

What I loved:
➤ The world building was insane! It was easy to picture the temple, the rolling and craggy hills, the clans, and even the island of Saylok shaped like a star.
➤ The mythological history, both real and imagined, served to further the imagery. From the runes to the blood to the sight and protections, it was easy to be captivated by the mystique of this tale.
➤ All of the characters!!
Bayr - he was a child that reminded me of a young Herakles... if he had a speech impediment. He was strong, honorable, and incredibly caring. His heart was too huge for his world. He was the embodiment of compassion, understanding, loyalty, and tolerance. Bayr was everything that I loved about this story and I couldn't get enough of his valor, his skills, his honesty, his dreams, and his love. He belongs to Alba and she to him and it's beautiful!!
“My b-body is yours. My heart is yours. My s-soul, my thoughts, my d-dreams, my life. Yours. I will do whatever you ask. Whatever you wish.”
Dagmar - This man!! A Keeper of the Runes, son of a warrior, brother to a warrior, body of a warrior, he chose the life of a scholar, defying and denying the path that was planned out for him. He raises his orphaned nephew, Bayr, in the temple, marvelling at the boy and loving him more than words. Dagmar taught his nephew everything he knew and I'm not sure Bayr would be as awesome as he was without him. With all he was willing to do for Bayr, it was easy to fall in huge like with Dagmar.
“I am yours, Bayr. Always. My heart is yours. My spirit is yours, and even when I’m dead, I will refuse Valhalla, and I will follow at your heels, watching over you”
Ghost - she didn't feature overly much, but she was a fierce character to contend with. She was white as snow with white hair and pale eyes and often overlooked. Mistake! After having her daughter stolen from her, being raised as a princess, rather than stealing her back, she stays in Saylok to watch and wait. Her patience and compassion were what drove her and her connection to Dagmar was captured so beautifully that this non-crier was tempted to tears.
Alba - stolen daughter and false princess, her every whim is dictated by her passion for Bayr (and his for her)
A man his size should not be able to move so fast. But no one moved as fast as Bayr. No one was as strong. Or brave. Or true. There was no one like him. And he was hers.
Banruud - the antagonist of this story, his schemes and manipulations would be his ultimate downfall. But dang it, he made this story such an entertaining read! He's the sole reason why Saylok is a land with no daughters and he has no interest in accepting responsibility or atoning for his misdeeds. He was the perfect villain!!
★ Then there were the clan chieftains, other keepers, the sisters of Freya, and the highest keeper of them all... Ivo. Each played a part in pushing this story to its climax and none more so than Ivo. He knew far more than he revealed and although I had to sometimes question his true intentions, he saw the bigger picture. He was neither good or bad, but was motivated by what should be.

My only real complaint for this story would be how achingly slow it was. I kept skipping ahead to see when something would happen and then going back to my place, anxiously waiting to get there. However, the snail pace wasn't enough of a deterrent to my enjoyment of this story in the end. It gave me more time to savor both Bayr and Dagmar. It also gave me a chance to fall in love with Dred of Dolphys (Bayr's grandfather/Dagmar's father) and to be happy that he was able to feature in some way in the story. I ended up really liking the man. I also wasn't a huge fan of the way the story concluded. It was action, horror, action, sadness, action, lots of death, and then a quick summary of how everything is moving forward and then The End. I think I was expecting something more after everything I had to go through to get to the other side of all of this. And yet, this story still gets all the stars!! Obviously the author did a ton of ish right!

About the Author

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

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