Signe Pike’s The Lost Queen (Touchstone 2018) is the first in a trilogy following Languoreth, twin of the man who’d inspire the legends of Merlin and forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland. The first of series opens when she is 10, just after the death of her mother and ends when she’s 32 and standing dead center of a war between a tyrant king (her father-in-law), and her brother alongside the Dragon Warriors.
The historical novel is full of powerful, feminine energy, highlighting the silent strength of the women who worked behind the scenes of powerful men. Languoreth’s father had embraced and fostered the wild ways of his only daughter, even more so after the death of her mother. He allowed her to be trained in ways oft forbidden of women. Despite cultivating an independent streak, her father never shielded her from what her future held; as his only daughter, she would marry and marry into a noble family.
When she’s 14, she meets the man who will claim her heart. Not long after, she finds herself betrothed to the son of a Christian king. The marital alliance is a business transaction intended to protect her people and the ways of their ancestors. Her husband is a kind but quiet sort, and he’s been playing the long game to ensure his father will name him as successor. Languoreth must bite her tongue and bend to fit into the space she’s been given, or all would be for naught. She must become Queen; she’s given up everything for her family, her people, her ways, and she will play her part until her husband is named king.
It’s a bittersweet love triangle laced with magic and visions and soaked in blood and betrayal. History largely forgot Languoreth and the power she wielded, making her a footnote in history as an adulterous queen who was “saved” by Saint Mungo. Her brother was remembered as being a “madman” before becoming immortalized in the tales of Merlin. But this novel of faith, fealty and family gives voice to a child who grew to one of the most powerful women in Scotland during a turbulent and chaotic time.
Carefully crafted, the novel is both fragile and forceful; just as likely to pepper the pages with sweetness as blood spatter. The Lost Queen is a mouthful of a novel, the kind you savor, and I will be here until the last beautifully rendered page of the trilogy.
Read this book.