I waited a few days to review The Lost Queen, by Signe Pike. It’s a story of the Arthurian legend in sixth-century Scotland, and it’s told from the point of view of Langoureth, the “lost queen” who also happens to be the twin sister of the man who originated the Merlin myth. In this book, he’s called Lailoken. I honestly didn’t realize until I finished the book and read the author’s note that this was a book about Merlin. I suppose that’s to the author’s credit, because the story is intriguing on its own. But it added to my interest to learn, also from the author’s note, that there is documented evidence that Langoureth existed. But the story in the book, she explains, is almost completely invented because little information is available about her.
The story begins when Langoureth is very young. Her mother dies, and Langoureth and her brother run to a creek where they spent time with their mother. There they see a stag, and watch it in wonder. The wisdom-keeper who advises their father, the king, tells Langoureth the stag is a sign, a sign of a journey. Langoureth and her brother are to travel to Partick, a larger town some miles away. It’s a troubled place, where Christianity is rearing its head, threatening the “old way” of following nature, the way the wisdom-keeper and Langoureth’s mother followed.
Lailoken is fated to become a wisdom-keeper and Langoureth longs to follow in this way, but she is fated to marry as the daughter of a king. After her mother dies, a female wisdom-keeper aproaches her father to become her counselor, and he accepts. She advises Langoureth and helps her grow into a woman. When she is sixteen, Langoureth is prepared for marriage.
But before that happens, she falls in love. Emrys Pendragon comes to her father’s door, and with him a fellow warrior with green eyes –Maelgwyn. She has already been contracted in marriage, but Langoureth’s wisdom-keeper urges her to act on her feelings.She weaves a spell so Langoureth and Maelgwyn can escape those who would see them apart. So she and Maelgwyn make love, and then she marries two weeks later, to Rhydderch, the son of a Christian king. Sure enough, she soons realizes she is pregnant, and magically knows Maelgwyn is the father.
So begins the tale of Langoureth. It is long and somewhat heart-rending, and the worst part is, books two and three have yet to be written, so we have wait to find out what happens in the end. Still, the author sums up the book well, with Langoureth having a vision of the bloody future England has yet to experience.
One reviewer criticized some of the cliched characters: everyone who is good is slender and beautiful, and those who are bad are overweight and ugly. I suppose there’s some merit to that criticism. But it’s still a good tale, if you like this kind of book. Another thing I liked is that the author did not paint Christianity as terrible across the board. But there is still the cliched evil priest, only this time he’s a monk.
But the author can make some improvements in the second and third books and I think I will read them.