Magic, Merlin, and Intrigue? Oh My!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
Synopsis From The Book
I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history…
In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father’s door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother—a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin—Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.
Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
I got this book when I was in St. Louis for Pennedcon. I got it as a blind book selection. The book was wrapped in brown paper with the words “Merlin has a twin sister.” I picked it for those few words. When it comes to tales the Arthurian Legends are my favorite. I did not know until a few weeks ago while researching the other books in the series that this novel had come out the same month I got it in the selection. I am excited for the content. Historical dramas have a soft spot in my heart, add on that it’s about Merlin? Count me in.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Amazing. It was the only word I could fathom to breathe after the book had taken my breath away so splendidly. How can I do this book justice I feared? Granted I am still not sure but I shall try.
I found the striving for historical accuracy heartwarming, as well as the attention to the world. I was there in the 6th century. The author wrote notes about the world and story she crafted at the end that were fascinating to read. the best part was that we began with names and pronunciations. I fell in love with the first few pages and am dying to read on next.
It’s reading novels like these that I am reminded why I love historical fiction so much. I want so much more, alas I have to wait.
The book is divided into four parts. Part one is when they are kids. The book begins a few days after Languoreth and Lailoken’s mother died. They are trying to move on and end up seeing many things. The two watch as their foster brother returns to his father with a man called Pendragon (the top dragon warrior, where the dragon warriors are the strongest warriors. So pendragon is the strongest dragon warrior). We watch as they witness plots of destruction to their ways and religions and the makings for a war. This section introduces us to the Old Ways, and the world of the novel.
Part two is when they are teenagers. Languoreth is to be wed off to secure alliances. She, however, sees and falls for Maelgwn a Dragon Warrior. She and he flirt a lot. There is more on the plot keeping the world at war. Languoreth ruins her reputation and then remakes it in order to succeed in the marriage alliance. She becomes a woman (has first mensturatuion) and we see more of the culture and rituals. Ultimately this part ends with Languoreth and Maelgwn Swearing their love for each other, and making love under the stars.
Part three is when Languoreth has married her husband Rhydderch. She is pregnant with Maelgwn’s son. This part focuses on her life as a new bride, what it means to be torn by her new family and the one she left to protect. Her brother almost dies so she has to escape to save him. Later she tries to leave so she can bear her child on a holy island to break him from a supposed curse on his life. She fails and almost dies due to a Christian monk, and counsel man of the king she now serves. We watch as Christianity destroys much of what she once loved and she has to choose what she will become.
Part four is seventeen years later when she is 32. This part focuses on her meeting Maelgwn again after all this time, her children, and the tension in the land. It ends with the battle between her husband and son versus her brothers and deepest love. It Is shorter than the others but just as heart wrenching to read.
What I Liked:
Languoreth; She was charming from page one. I fell for her and her world. She was strong willed and a cute kid but as she matured through the pages I felt her beauty, grace, wit, and cunning. She would bow to none, where her fate was one she decided. I understood all her decisions for self preservation. I felt her anguish with heartbreak of being from the one she always loved. I saw her turmoil in having to pick a side when the two halves of her life came crashing at each other. I can not be angry with her and she has my full and unconditional support.
Lailoken (Lail); Languoreth’s brother, twin in fact and the origins of the one known as Merlin, in the Arthurian legends. He was charming in his own way but his magic was awe inspiring. Watching the twins swear to support each other through it all and seeing his reactions to her rejecting the Old Ways (for self preservation and other reasons) it was painful. He was Merlin and hearing that his name is a title for the word madman, only makes me more curious on where he shall go. I adore him, albeit not as much as his sister, but it is a love nonetheless.
2nd Characters; the main supporting cast were fleshed out for as far as they could be in a single perspective narrative. They were rounded, full of life, and full of wonder in our young lead’s eyes. I felt that I learned a lot about the world from them without Languoreth.
3rd characters; the tertiary characters are also full in their own ways with lives outside of the confines of Languoreth’s life. I found that this adds to the story to make the history pop off the page and captivates the mind,
Love vs duty; The decision between loving a man and marrying a man to protect her people was a conflict for our dear Languoreth and I love how this book explores it. She can’t have both. It was never an option. She can not ride away into the sunset to be with him. She is confined by her role and she has known it from the beginning. She admonishes herself for falling in love. Yet, she still gets the love. She has Maelgwn’s son, where none are the wiser. She marries her future king and submits to him fully. She does not love this man but she has a duty to her people. This duty defines her and her decisions. Ultimately, however she has to pick which of her people she has to support.
The duty to be a queen; once Languoreth is married she is a princess and future queen. She has to make hard and tough decisions, best outlined by the final fight. She could pick to tell her brother, or warn her husband but she does not. Her husband must fight her brothers to get his title as heir. If she wants to better support all her people she must let him and this destroys her. But she has been made to be a queen and it is for the best of all her people. Watching this change was heart breaking.
Wisdom Keepers; they are essentially druids, with powers in medicine, history, and some have powers outside that in the realm of magic. There are many and often times they are council of kings. Lail is powerful as a Wisdom Keeper, and additionally is the one Merlin is based on. I felt that this aspect of society was aptly examined and thought about. We see the desecration of their lands, as the people turn to Christianity.i fell that I learned a lot about their sacred ways and the book would have been very different without this focus.
Time skips; I was wondering how we would get through time and I welcomed these time skips. I felt that they were aptly places in the book as well as in time of Languoreth life,
Historical striving for accuracy; needless to say, I think this is not always important but when it is there I find the tales to be endearing “what if’s.” This striving helped me learn more about what I thought I once knew.
The romance; it starts as a fierce crush, that turns to flirting, to loving all over the span of a few pages that takes months of time. I found myself captivated by Maelgwn and he’s green eyes. It was fiery and I filled with a deep passion, but despite it… Languoreth still followed her duty to become a princess. I found this astonishing, additionally her love for her family (siblings, and children later) was an equally powerful love. She loved fully and this romance was not stifling in the least because of how much she loved everyone else. It was romance with a purpose, but romance all the same. I dislike it when it’s romance because there has to be, this was so real it was nearly palpable.
Perspective and Writing; The novel is written exceedingly well from the limited first person perspective. The perspective leans towards the emotions and limited knowledge of our lead which really helps bring the history to life. Additionally the dialogue and descriptive writing is superb.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I don’t want unrequited love it hurts my heart
Time Taken To Read
I love this book, but I need to see the remainder of the series to decide if it is 5/5 worthy or not.
“No sense in battling tears. We all weep. Sometimes it’s best to let them fall.” – Cathan, Wisodm Keeper, to Languoreth
“Death is no easy thing… There is always the missing. But the dead never leave us.” – Cathan to Languoreth
“Nay, little one, this is not the end… In fact, I fear this is only the beginning.” – Languoreth’s Father to Languoreth