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Book Review: First Earth

Genre: YA Portal Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: disabled, chronic pain

I have written many reviews where I don’t quite have the words to express how much the book moved me, but none quite so much as this one. When I found out that author, Cami Murdock Jensen, chose me as a reader for BookGush October, I was absolutely stoked, but I never imagined that her book, First Earth, would impact me as much as it did.

The novel follows Agnes, who jumps at the chance to do an internship with her mentor. However, when she and her mentor go to view an ancient artifact, her internship takes a wild turn, and she ends up traveling through a portal to another world! Throughout all of this she battles neuropathy pain, and she discovers that she is stronger than she ever could have imagined.

I had absolutely no idea that this book had chronic pain representation until I started reading it. Chronic pain is something I’ve lived with for most of my life, yet I’ve never actually read a book that truly incorporates a character’s pain into their story. Reading First Earth, I have never felt so simultaneously seen and hopeful. I have read fantasy books for a long time as a way to escape reality. Imagining myself in the role of the protagonist has always come with one caveat; that my chronic illnesses and pain would have to disappear for me to be part of these stories. For the first time in my life this book allowed me to escape into a fantasy story that accepts me as I am; a story where I don’t have to change a single thing about myself to imagine myself in that world. Honestly, words cannot convey what that experience means to me.

Additionally, while I personally don’t have neuropathy pain, I found many details about Agnes’ pain relatable. Truthfully, when I started reading the book, I was curious to see how her experiences would be incorporated into the story. Fantasy books that have people with chronic pain constantly running around, saving the day, and showing immense physical strength are really disheartening because they aren’t realistic. But First Earth was so genuine and uplifting. So, maybe Agnes didn’t engage in a harrowing sword fight, but her powers allowed her to show strength in other ways. I absolutely loved how she was just as much a part of the story as the characters who didn’t have chronic pain. I never felt like she was taking a backseat to the action, or only mentioned as an afterthought. She took the spotlight and fought battles in her own way!

Furthermore, I appreciated another aspect of the way Agnes’ chronic pain and physical scars were portrayed. Now, I want to preface that this is completely my opinion and personal preference. By no means do I speak for the disabled and chronic pain warriors of the world. That being said, I thought it was fitting and relatable that Agnes’ pain and scars were not magically healed. Don’t get me wrong, I would have absolutely no issue with someone choosing to have chronic pain magically healed if they could. I certainly would. However, that feature was vital to the story. I’m not saying that people with chronic pain become their chronic pain, but it does become a part of them. Agnes’ story isn’t powerful because she lives with chronic pain or despite her living with chronic pain. It is not the defining factor of who she is, but it is one of the many attributes she has. The story would have drastically changed if Temnon wasn’t fiercely loyal or if Grimmal wasn’t feisty or if Dominath wasn’t wise. In a similar way, it would have been vastly different if Agnes didn’t have chronic pain and scars.

On top of the phenomenal representation, the book was fantastic! The characters were clearly well thought out and the plot was robust and immersive. I know it’s cliché to say this, but I truly couldn’t put it down. I also thought the ending was a good mixture of satisfaction and curiosity.

As a whole, First Earth quickly became one of my all time favorite books! I can’t wait to go on more adventures with the wonderful characters!

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