Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Is ‘The Lost Queen’ Worth the Hunt?

Leave a comment

The Lost Queen: A Novel (. Book #1 of The Lost Queen. Simon & Schuster, 2018)

By Signe Pike

Set in sixth century Scotland, The Lost Queen is a retelling of the Arthurian legend via the sister of Merlin.

Languoreth is the daughter of an ancient king (or chieftain). As such, she’s duty-bound to marry for socio-political reasons and not for love. But she has an affair with a young general.

Told in the first person, the story begins with Languoreth and her twin brother, Lailoken (later known as Merlin), mourning the recent loss of their mother, a Wisdom Keeper skilled in the healing arts. (Since this is a book review, not a history lesson, I am not going to delve into the historical underpinnings of this book and its protagonist. Google is your friend.)

The Basics

Intelligent, independent, and passionate, Languoreth must follow in her mother’s footsteps, which means no freedom and few choices. Daughters of kings must marry kings. They can’t become keepers, as Languoreth prefers. And she can’t become a warrior. But the young princess still has the power to fight. We may not always have the choice we like, she observes. But we always have a choice. Or so readers are told. About 9 million times.

So Languoreth is destined to marry a stranger, a man she doesn’t love, for the safety and security of her people. Bummer. But that doesn’t stop her from pursuing a romance with Maelgwn, one of Pendragon’s generals. (We get it. We got it the first 4,873 times it was mentioned, okay? Can we move on?)

Style

The style is reminiscent of T.H. White, with excellent world-building. The prose is as rich and redolent as woodsmoke and pine. The descriptions are also good, but sometimes threaten to overwhelm the central character and run her into the woods.

Additionally, it takes a while for this story to get rolling. The initial chapters – like, ten – are replete with rituals, kennings, bannock, feasts and festivals, Dragon Warriors, her father’s health, flora gathering and Midsummer whatevers. It’s like the author’s trying to impress us with her deep dive into ancient Scottish lore. Or… something. The unfortunate result is that it takes close to twenty chapters for this thing to gather any real steam.

Meandering

I really wanted to like this book. It has its moments. But it meanders too often, moving with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. It’s also yawningly repetitive in places.

The title is also a bit misleading. As Languoreth’s story winds down with a war in which family members are pitted against other family members, her husband’s ascension to the high king’s throne is still in doubt. Ditto her status as “queen.”

That’s kind of a gyp. Especially since readers spent the last 9,358 pages (or so it may seem) hopefully hopping down every bunny trail in Scotland looking for a coronation.

Bummer again.

Lovers of Celtic history and the Arthurian legend will enjoy The Lost Queen. It’s unlikely to kindle similar enthusiasm from casual readers. Indeed, The Lost Queen would probably make a good movie. But you’d have to cut out or abbreviate about half the story, or it’d take a week to screen.

Reviews Published

Net Galley Top Reviewer

Mom and Kimber’s Score:

2.5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s