Author: Signe Pike
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.
The story takes place in 6th Century Scotland taking known history and legends and transports them into a new fantasy story. It takes the historical elements and combines them with fiction to create a fantastic start to a historical fantasy series. While covering the legend of King Arthur (the Pendragon family), the story focuses on the family that took in Uther Pendragon (formerly Gwenddolau) as a child. I loved the author’s notes at the end that give more insight into her decisions for the characters and plot of the story.
The novel begins around 550 AD and covers multiple years as the main characters start as children and soon become adults with children of their own. The main character of the series is Langoureth, the forgotten queen. She is the daughter of Morken, a high chieftain and King in the northern part of Strathclyde. The tale starts with her at 10-years-old with her twin brother, Lailoken (“Lail”), who is thought to be a part of the legend of Merlin. Their mother has recently died and the two children are preparing for their new paths in life. Langoureth is promised to marry the son of the High King of Strathclyde, while Lailoken will join Gwenddalau as a spiritual advisor and warrior in the Borderlands to join Emrys Penndragon.
The story is divided into four parts that represent significant changes in the story. There are some time jumps between the parts, but they are no difficult to follow. While I am not always a fan of time jumps, especially years in the future, it made sense in the story and helped keep the plot moving forward at a decent pace. Langoureth begins as 10-years-old and we see her throughout her life all the way until her mid-thirties. During each part of the story, there are new obstacles, alliances, secrets, and betrayals at every step of the way. One of the main constant conflicts in the story is the Old Ways, honoring the legends and wisdom of the Wisdom Keepers, similar to a Druid, while Christianity is gaining steam. As those supporting Christianity are trying to wipe out those of other religions, war is on the horizon with no known end in sight.
While there many characters to keep track of, many of them appear multiple times and each are very unique. The names are difficult, at first, to pronounce, but I loved that there was a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. While many of the situations, thoughts, and inner thoughts may have a modern twist, they all are based in history. It was an excellent mix to read through as it expanded the writing to be more accessible to a wider audience, at least to me. There is a romantic entanglement that Langoureth goes through in this story between her first love and the one she is duty-bound to be with and her heart is constantly struggling with herself. While I am not usually a fan of love triangles, I found this story to fit well in the story and I loved how it did not pull focus away from the main plots of the novel.
Overall, the story starts off a little slower in the first few parts as the characters and plot are all established. While it was not fast-paced, it was very interesting to read and I find myself wanting to keep reading. The story picks up after ~100 pages, or so, and then the events are set into motion where it captivated me even more and it was difficult to put the book down. There are a lot of secrets that could potentially be revealed, mistakes that need to be remedied, and conflicts that need to be resolves, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the rest of the series!
**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, Atria Books, and the author for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**