Publishing Date: September 4, 2018
The Premise from the Publisher: "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" (Touchstone).
My overall thoughts and review: When I read that the comp for this book was The Mists of Avalon meets Philippa Gregory, I was instantly sold. This story is based on new scholarship and focuses on the sister of Merlin/Lailoken, Languoreth. She was married Rhydderch, and in a lot of popular culture, the emphasis is more on her brother and his connection with the Pendragons. I had no idea Merlin even had a sister to begin with, so I was intrigued. I know that with historical fiction, certain liberties are taken and I'm ok with that. I don't think I've read a historical fiction that takes place during the sixth century, but after finishing this, I'm already awaiting more books from Signe Pike, and I want to read everything I can about the sixth century.
This book is divided into four sections and it's quite a big book, but the way Pike writes does a wonderful job at world building. I felt I could easily envision Cadzow, Patrick, and Strathclyde. Everything was so vivid in Pike's descriptions. I definitely got some Game of Thrones vibes from the book. Languoreth's father, Morken, was a Northern King, and while Lailoken was able to go forth and become a Wisdom Keeper, Languoreth was to be wedded to someone who would one day become King to strengthen the alliance between the Northern King and the High King. Languoreth finds herself attracted to a warrior in Emrys Pendragon's group named Maelgwn. As a romance reader, I loved these parts of the book so much. There were some swoony moments, but I will say, I wanted so much more. Give me more Languoreth and Maelgwn please!! Things change in the second part of the book though, when Languoreth is wedded to Rhydderch to strengthen the alliance. Though Rhydderch was a good husband to her, there wasn't the passion and love that was present with Maelgwn. I loved how this was more than a love story, because it focused on court politics, what one does to protect one's family, and the way women were treated during this time period. Langoureth is placed in such a unique position, because she must be careful in her new home and adjusting to the new rules, while her heart is firmly still set upon the Old Ways. I don't want to give away too much of the plot points, but there were quite a few twists and turns I did not see coming. There is a lot in this novel.. and I really loved Langoureth as a character. She's incredibly strong and there's so much that she went through. The final two parts of the book focus more so on Langoureth's marriage to Rhydderch, and then finally, her role as a mother. So I'm guessing now that the future books in the trilogy will focus on another character instead of Langoureth. But I do hope to see more of her in the future books again. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the world building and just how strong of a female protagonist Langoureth was. I've read and watched many adaptations of the Merlin and King Arthur lore, but never has there been one that focuses on a female during the sixth century and their struggles. This book is incredibly unique and even if you aren't particularly interested in the history of this time period, it's a beautiful book about love and family.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮½ (4.5/5 stars)
Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository
A “Knowing,” or so the Wisdom Keepers called them. At night, and even in waking, Lail told me, he dreamt of such things: salmon circling the bottom of a forest pool, or the speckled eggs of a faraway falcon’s nest. It had been Lail who had woken from sleep that first morning after Mother died and heeded the call to the river. There he’d found the red stag standing in the shallows as if it were waiting. My brother had a gift for reading such signs from the Gods. We were only ten winters—Lailoken was young to have such skill. Yet Lail could not make sense of why the great deer had come. Even so, I could sense now that my brother’s gift was growing. Messengers came often to Cadzow with news for our father, but never before had Lailoken foreseen one.
I shifted on the stones, straining to hear the sound of hoofbeats I knew were not yet approaching. A rider was coming—it was only a matter of when—and soon our nursemaid Crowan would wake to find our beds empty. I knew we should hurry, yet I could not take my eyes from the water.
“Was that truly Mother we saw?” I asked. “Is that what it’s like when you see someone from Spirit?”
“Don’t know.” Lailoken squinted. “I’ve never seen a spirit before.”
“She looked just as real as anyone. Do you think if we stayed . . . we might see her again?”
Lail’s blue eyes trailed to the water almost hopefully. But then he shook his head and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. I felt the small stab as he shut me out again and looked to the cliff top, where a yolky sun was filtering through the forest. The spell of dawn had broken. In the current, the stag shifted and meandered toward the opposite bank. I wanted to rest my head on his smooth flanks, make my mother reappear so she could chase away the emptiness. But we moved instead to climb the trail, turning our backs on the water.
As we reached the little gully where our mother had so often sat by our side, I heard the echo of her voice rising up from the depths of my longing. She had called out my name in the darkness of my dream. But her voice had not been tender or full of love.
Her voice had been full of warning.
Disclaimer: An advanced e-reader's copy of the book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.