Book Review : The Lost Queen

Book Review : The Lost QueenThe Lost Queen (The Lost Queen Trilogy, #1) by Signe Pike
Published by Atria Books on September 4th 2018
Genres: Arthurian, fantasy fiction, Historical fiction
Pages: 545
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three-stars

“Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers) in the first book of an exciting historical trilogy that reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a powerful and, until now, tragically forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legendary character of Merlin.

Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.

Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch's wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.

The Lost Queen markets itself as a mix between Outlander and Camelot—a bold claim. As I love Arthurian legend, I was excited to read this novel, which is based on the twin sister of the man who served as the inspiration for the legend of Merlin. I really enjoyed this premise of The Lost Queen, and all of the historical aspects of sixth-century Scotland, but I wouldn’t say it had either the romance of Outlander or the magic of Camelot.

 

If you squint, there are aspects of both of these aforementioned franchises. For instance, Languoreth’s (the titular “lost queen), foster brother, Gwenddolau becomes known as Uther Pendragon. On the Outlander front, The Lost Queen does take place in Scotland during the sixth century, and there is one romance, but it is definitely not the focus of the novel at all. There are also not copious amounts of steamy romantic scenes like in the Outlander series. To be honest, The Lost Queen gave me more of a Pillars of the Earth feel, but with far less perspectives and narrators.

 

The Lost Queen follows Languoreth, daughter of one of the 13 “petty” kings of Scotland, and twin to Lailoken. The two are raised in the Old Ways, and her brother is trained to become a Wisdom Keeper, which is basically a druid, and a combination of augur, mystic man, and counselor. Languoreth is bitter that she is unable to become a Wisdom Keeper herself, and is solely destined to make a good marriage for her family. Throughout The Lost Queen, I really struggled with Languoreth’s characterization. As a child, she is far too aware to be believable as an actual child. As an adult, she’s supposed to be wise, poised, and the perfect woman to preserve the sanctity of the Old Ways in a marriage to the son of the High King, who increasingly supports Christianity, but I couldn’t think of more ill-suited person for this role.

 

“You cannot become a Keeper. Your father is king, and you our only girl. You must marry someone of rank and keep safe our family. Daughters of kings are married to kings.”

 

In actuality, Languoreth possesses few queenly qualities, despite the novel’s many assurances that she does. In reality, she’s impulsive, whiney, and selfish and instead of making things better for her people and their way of life, she unfailingly makes them worse for everyone involved. It is quite frustrating to watch her sabotage everything again and again and I found myself wishing that the novel was narrated by more than just her. I did really enjoy the members of her family, like her father, King Morken, and her many cousins and brothers. I think The Lost Queen could have benefited from switching in between some of these casts of characters in order to better flesh them out as well, especially as their development seems defined by their one role.

 

At the very least, it would’ve been better served The Lost Queen to switch between the twins’ perspectives, as they are supposed to have such a strong bond, and as the novel pushes Lailoken as the future legendary Merlin. Despite repeated assurances, the bond between Lailoken and Languoreth feels shallow and one sided. Only Languoreth seems particularly tuned into her twin, who seems much more interested in gallivanting with the Pendragon forces and sleeping with women, then what is going on with his family. Sadly, the only time the twins’ “bond” comes into play is when its convenient for the plot to do so.

 

Similarly, the main romance of the novel is rather poorly developed. Though Langoureth’s secret paramour, Maelgwen is dreamy, with his green eyes, dark hair, and warrior’s body, there’s not much to him other than falling for Languoreth at first sight and serving in her foster brother’s army. In the decades the novel spans, the two only meet a handful of times, and never involves much conversation or substance. Their relationship does not even come close to Outlander’s Jaime and Claire’s timeless love story, so going into the novel with those kinds of expectations will only lead to disappointment for the reader.

 

Despite the less than stellar characterizations, I enjoyed other parts of The Lost Queen. My favorite part is reading about this time period in Scotland, as well as all of the traditions of the Old Ways, like the celebrations of Beltane and Samhain. I also really liked all the allusions to the Picts and their different way of life, and I hope this group of people features more in the sequel. I would have enjoyed reading more about everyday traditions these people practiced, but The Lost Queen really just highlights the big celebrations. Likewise, I would’ve liked to witness firsthand Lailoken’s training in these Old Ways as he becomes a Wisdom Keeper, but this is something that sadly occurs off the page. We also never see Languoreth preparing to become a future queen and learning lessons of etiquette, court politicking, or anything else remotely useful that could have helped the poor girl learn some much needed self-possession and subtlety.

 

Author Signe Pike does do a fairly good job of depicting the mounting tensions between the Christians and the practitioners of the Old Ways. Languoreth, as a daughter of the Old Ways, marrying into a Christianity-supporting royal family, is specifically well-positioned to relate the challenges of these two worlds merging. Even though Languoreth doesn’t do even a remotely good job at bridging these worlds, she does well telling of the challenges. I only wish we had had more of an opportunity beyond meditating, collecting herbs, spotting a stag or birds that might be portend an omen, and visiting a holy hill to witness the Old Ways. There is sadly not much of the magic of Camelot, as claimed, in The Lost Queen.

 

“Do not envy your brother, Languoreth. It is true, the Gods have not chosen you for Keeper. And, as a young woman, neither can you become a warrior like Gwenddolau. But you will have your own influence, as is your fate. You will come to understand that each of us has the power to fight.”

 

However, if you enjoy reading about Scotland’s history during the tumultuous times of the spread of both Christianity and Anglo-Saxons, there’s plenty to entertain. Though I would definitely not encourage those looking for a romance or a big focus on Arthurian legend to pick up The Lost Queen. The Lost Queen is more historical fiction than either legend or romance, and it does a pretty decent job immersing you in the world of Scotland back then, even with an unreliable heroine at its helm. And despite the mismarketing of a cross between Outlander and King Arthur, I really enjoyed The Lost Queen and even read it in one sitting. I’ve already picked up the sequel to The Lost Queen, and I’m about halfway through.

 

three-stars
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Book Review : The Lost Queen - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 26, 2022 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

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