Genre: Historical Fantasy, Romance
Published on August 20, 2019
Published by 47North, Amazon Publishing
Format: eBook, 391 pages
Goodreads • Amazon • Book Depository
First sentence: They shouldn’t have climbed for so long, but they’d been convinced that if they reached to top of Shinway, they would be able to look out over the sea, all the way to Eastlandia.
Amy Harmon is one of those authors that I have heard only good things about. Due to the gigantic TBR list and the lack of organization, I haven’t read any of her books yet. So when I noticed The First Girl Child on NetGalley labeled as ‘Read Now’, I took it as a sign.
What Did I Like?
- The fast pace of the plot. With 13 novels under her belt, Amy Harmon is a veteran of literally battles. Her experience is evident in practiced, even pacing and good tempo of the plot. The First Girl Child covers about 20 years of events in 400 tightly-packed pages.
- Vikings are one of the ethnic groups that hold a certain appeal to me. Yes, I know that most of the people see them as big brutes. But I always regard Vikings as great, inspirational warriors.
“This is not a world where a man or a woman gets much choice into their happiness. We are born into war and each day is a battle.”
- Norse mythology is a given if the novel is about Vikings. But Amy Harmon gave it her unique twist. She invented Saylok, the son of Odin, and created fictional Viking tribes who worshiped him. And additionally, there is a hint of Christianity mixed in.
- A rich culture that is full of unique rituals and superstitions. Since my knowledge about Vikings is not substantial, I could not tell which of the customs are invented and which ones are authentic. But Amy Harmon wove a bunch of small details to paint a full picture of people of Saylok. For example: how the length of warriors braids corresponds to the longevity of the king’s reign.
- Blood magic featuring utilization of runes. It fits the Vikings’ culture perfectly.
“Blood was the only thing earth answered to. Blood represented sacrifice, and the earth would not trade her secrets for anything less.”
- Multiple POVs offered different aspects of the same events and made me feel close not only to one but to a bunch of main characters. Nothing helps you feel close to someone, like hearing their thoughts, dreams, and fears.
- The Chosen One cliche is one of the most used ones in speculative fiction. So, Amy Harmon decided to make the hero a little bit less perfect by giving him a stutter (among other flaws).
- Large and small scale drama. Most of the fantasy books deal with some crisis that threatens a country, and The First Girl Child is not an exception. But through the narration of multiple characters, I could also see how these problems affect their lives. Although these personal tragedies seem smaller, they affected me more deeply. For example love of a mother for her child (Ghost) or allegiance of a brother to his sister (Dagmar)…
“Be careful what you fear,” Ivo replied, grave. “We draw the attention of the fates when our fear grows too loud. The fates are cruel, and they will reward you with what you fear most.”
- Not too dark. I have read a lot of modern fantasy novels lately and there seems to be a competition how bloody they can get. This is especially true if warriors like Vikings are the subject. So, while the events described in The First Girl Child are unquestionably brutal, I didn’t find it too grim.
What I Didn’t Like?
While I can’t point at anything that I did not like in The First Girl Child, I am still giving this novel 4 stars. For me, 5 stars are reserved only for the absolute favorites that I could read over and over again.
The First Girl Child was a pleasant journey to the time of Vikings where the magic was bloody and the warriors were fierce. I warmly recommend it if you like a historical fantasy set in this time period.
Amy Harmon definitely piqued my interest with The First Girl Child. In Afterword, she wrote that she hopes there will be more stories set in Saylok. I hope so too. But until then, I am already contemplating which book from her wide opus should I read next. So far, I am leaning toward The Bird and the Sword Chronicles.