The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
What It’s About:
Dagmar, a keeper of the runes in Saylok, finds his sister Desdemona in her final moments after she has given birth to her son, Bayr. Spurned by Banruud, the boys father and clan chieftain, Desdemona uses the runes to put a blood curse on the land so that no more daughters would be born to the people of Saylok. In her rune curse, she gives Bayr inhuman strength and names him as the savior who will lift the curse.
Bayr is raised by his uncle Dagmar at Temple Hill and he grows up learning the ways of the keepers. As time passes, the curse proves to be true and the people of Saylok are beginning to panic. Banruud is crowned as king after he steals the first girl child born in many years and claims Alba as his own, making people believe that he was the one to break the curse. Bayr is instantly drawn to baby Alba and vows to protect her with is life.
Even after Alba is born, the curse still continues and people begin to turn against Banruud. There is unrest between the clans and outside invaders begin to occupy parts of Saylok. In the midst of all the lies, secrets, and corruption, Bayr and his allies must find a way to break the curse and save their people from destruction.
What I liked:
My favorite part of the book was the writing. The author has a way of drawing you into the story. I thought the premise and ramifications of the lack of girls was really interesting. At first the people were happy that they were all giving birth to sons since they lived in a patriarchal society. After several years pass, it becomes apparent that women are a necessity for the continuation of life as the people become desperate and begin stealing and buying females from other lands.
What I didn’t like:
The book didn’t seem long enough to build the fantasy world, plot, and characters. It reminded me of those pictures that show an iceberg above and under water. It felt like I only got to see just the tip of the iceberg, when there was so much potential for an amazing epic story/series. I never felt the impact of the climax, romance, or the protagonist and antagonist characters. (updated comment: a second book was released after I wrote this review. It’s on TBR and hopefully the second book will fulfill the missing pieces.) The world building felt like a loose hodgepodge of different belief systems, magic, and mythology that didn’t quite fit together smoothly.
What saved the book for me was the writing and a few of the secondary characters that were so interesting. I just really wish it had been longer and more developed. Readers who are fans of Norse mythology, the shows Vikings and The Last Kingdom, and the 2018 God of War game might enjoy this book.