Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, 47North, via Netgalley for an honest review.
Plot: 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.
“‘I cannot see, my tongue is a traitor.
My flesh is a foe, my heart a betrayer.
My eyes will I blacken, my lips will I close.
And let the runes lead me down paths I must go.
No man can follow.
No man can lead.
No man can save me, no man can free.”’
This book is PHENOMENAL!
Desdemona of Dolphys spent her last day alive giving birth to the bastard son of a cruel chieftain, and cursing the kingdom of Saylok: If man can so easily turn his back on his child and the woman who carries him, then man will know what it means to live without woman.
“We are abused. We are used. We are bartered and abandoned. But rarely are we loved. So be it. From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok for any of you to love.”
The First Girl Child is about a curse over a kingdom that ensures only males are born. It is about the life of a temple boy named Bayr who is gifted with inhuman strength, and the first girl child born during the curse, Princess Alba. The book is one of love, sacrifice, deceit, honor, faith, hope and brutality. Women are taken by force from territories and surrounding Kingdoms, in the hopes that women outside of Saylok are exempt from the curse and can break the drought. There is adventure and war, but also compassion and loyalty dripping from these remarkable pages. It is a story of oppression and doing what is expected of you, rather than what you choose.
“This is not a world where a man or woman gets much choice in their happiness. We are born into war and each day is a battle.”
This is an EPIC historical fantasy that I don’t think I could have lived without! It centers on Saylok, a kingdom made up of six territories, with each territory being ruled by it’s own chieftain and Saylok being ruled by a King. The territories of Adyar, Berne, Dolphys, Ebba, Joran and Leok live in peace with the role of King being rotated between the tribes each time one dies. At the center of Saylok resides Temple Hill, where the Keepers live in isolation, protecting the knowledge of the blood runes and communicating with the Gods.
The story is set over a number of years as the reader watches Bayr grow within the temple walls under the care of his uncle and the Keepers. As he becomes a toddler, it becomes known that Bayr is unlike other children. Within 6 months of his birth he is walking and running, and by the age of 5 he has already taken down a bear with only his hands. But with his inhuman strength and speed also comes his unflinching heart and need to protect. So when the first girl child is finally born, Bayr feels an instant connection to the her and swears an oath to become her protector. We watch as Bayr and Alba grow together, becoming a formidable and inseparable pair, and how their relationship begins to shift as the years pass.
The relationship they share is positively adorable and beautiful. Bayr is the solid figure in Alba’s life as she grows into a small child. He acts as her confidant, brother, guard and bestfriend. His days center on Alba, and hers center on him. I found so many small smiles blossoming my cheeks as I read about these two growing together, having adventures and learning. Alba being a fierce and outspoken little girl, and Bayr being a quiet and observant boy who treats her with such care and love. They are the true heart of this book, and the romance that is…EVERYTHING you could ask for.
“There is no Alba without Bayr.”
But two other characters that really steal the show are Dagmar, Bayr’s uncle, and Ghost, the biological mother of Alba.. These two play HUGE roles in the development and lives of Bayr and Alba. They are kindhearted, compassionate and AMAZING people who live their lives in the shadows. A love between Dagmar and Ghost blossoms, but it is a relationship that is forbidden due to Dagmar being a Keeper. But the resilience, strength and selfless love that these two exude is the touch of hope and innocence that envelopes this book.
I think what really blew me away about this book, besides the incredible world-building, overall plot and complete badassery, was the writing. This is my first read from Amy Harmon, and I am SHOCKED and a little outraged that I have never come across her before! Her writing is detailed, exciting and addicting. I don’t normally go for fantasy books that have that Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings style, but I am SO happy I decided to request this. I was fearful that it would be slow, that I would have trouble with the names and places, but NONE of that happened. I was ADDICTED!
If there is one bad thing I can say about this book, it’s that it isn’t the first in a series.
But, I’m secretly hoping it magically becomes one.