Used Book Reviews at The Cool Table are our reviews for books that were released, read and reviewed quite awhile ago but that we cannot stand for you to miss. Whether you need a new read or re-read, Used Book Reviews is here to remind you of our favorites (because we have great taste) and help you find them on a sale rack somewhere (actually, let’s hope they are on sale at Amazon because we cannot scour all your used book stores for you). Call it Vintage Book Club. Call it Re-read, Review, Recycle. Call it Little Late Library. It’s Used Book Reviews.
I don’t know what you call the opposite of a reading slump, but I am in it! I’ve read so many great books lately; exquisite, devastating books that wreck you and heal you, over and over. One of those is The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon, a favorite author of mine. Her books are consistently beautiful, painful, cathartic emotional atom bombs. The First Girl Child is a Viking/Fantasy/Historical romance, with layered world building and vivid, realistic characters. And romance. Did I mention the romance?
It begins with a curse…
“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.”
On the day he was born, Bayr’s mother cursed the island of Saylok with her dying breath. She swore that there would be no more daughters born for men to mistreat, and her curse has endured since that day. Until an ambitious and ruthless chieftain claims the throne with undeniable proof of Odin’s favor-a daughter, the first born in seven years. Bayr, only a child but blessed by Thor with inhuman strength, swears to protect the girl, called Alba, for his entire life. As the years go by and no other daughters are born, Saylok becomes increasingly desperate and dangerous, and her king increasingly corrupt. Bayr and Alba seem to be the key to Saylok’s salvation, but secrets will tear them apart, and neither of them know who they really are.
…It Ends With Hope
“It was not safe; it never had been. It never would be, and the world was forever altered. But mayhaps they could make it better.”
Prepare to hurt so good. I fell in love with these characters, and Harmon takes them (and you) to the very brink of despair, the darkness right before the dawn. But despite flaws and circumstances, they all shine with strength and loyalty. She’s created a magical, multi dimensional world and culture, and I dearly hope she gives us more stories from this world. There’s runes and temple druids, blood magic, shield maidens, and (tasteful) sex next to waterfalls.
While you’re at it, read all of Amy Harmon’s other books too
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of her books. Her signature style is beautiful but simple writing, epic romance, and unforgettable characters. Her stories contain the best (and worst) of humanity, but are always limned with hope and endurance. Here are a few of my favorites, and all of them are available for free through Kindle Unlimited!
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Basic Plot: Magical mute girl Lark meets magical cursed King Tiras in a world that hates magic. They must save the kingdom from multiple dangers and help Lark find her voice. Read for the captivating romance, because it is A+. And then read the next book in the series, because it’s equally enthralling.
“If I didn’t look too closely, I wouldn’t see that Tiras wasn’t there. If I didn’t breathe too deeply, I wouldn’t feel the hollow echo in my empty chest. If I didn’t move too quickly, I wouldn’t reach any painful conclusions. And if I didn’t listen, I wouldn’t hear the silence he always left behind.”
Genre: WW2 Romance
Basic Plot: Italian Catholic Priest Angelo hides his Jewish childhood love Eva from the Gestapo. Angelo risks his life to keep her safe, but Eva is determined help her fellow Jews. Forbidden love, danger, religion and history all collide into a fraught but inspirational story.
“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized black hole, sucking the joy out of life, the pleasure, the beauty. But not the hope. Somehow, the hope is the only thing resistant to the fear, and it is that hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”
Genre: Time travel romance
Basic Plot: Inspired by stories from her Grandfather, Anne visits Ireland after his death and travels back in time. Arriving on the cusp of the Irish Revolution, she assumes an identity and falls in love. She’s eventually faced with the classic time traveler’s question-escape the danger and go back to her own time, or stay and fight for those she loves.
“If all men loved their wives the way I love Anne, we would be a useless lot. Or maybe the world would know peace. Maybe the wars would end, and the strife would cease as we centered our lives on loving and being loved.”
This review first appeared on August 20th, 2019 at That’s Normal
Food. Books. Naps. Deeply obsessed with Tolkien, Baby Yoda memes, and traveling as often and as far as possible. Determined to live in Scotland. Amateur historian. Professional stay at home mom. Rabid consumer of scotch, peanut M&Ms, and Reylo fanfic. Creator of possibly the best PB&J ever. A little too in love with Kylo Ren.