The Lost Queen

Written by Signe Pike
Review by Ray Thompson

Set in the south of Scotland in the 6th century, this tells the story of Languoreth, twin sister of Lailoken, whom many researchers identify as the historical figure on which Merlin is based. They present a strong argument that the Arthurian story was carried from the north by Britons seeking refuge among kinfolk to the southwest, and that events were relocated there in later accounts.

The daughter of a minor king, Languoreth must make a dynastic marriage with Prince Rhydderch of Strathclyde, even though she has fallen in love with another. Such, however, was often the fate of high-born women throughout history, and the author reveals the personal sacrifice entailed. An adherent to the Old Religion, she must navigate a court where an aggressive and intolerant Christianity is on the ascendant; and as civil strife threatens, she finds herself torn between loyalty to the family in which she was raised and that into which she was married. Since she is, by nature, impetuous, her actions lead her into trouble in a harsh and unforgiving world where power is wielded ruthlessly.

This is a plausible recreation of Dark Age Britain in a time of political and religious upheaval, and the author uses vivid imagery to bring the setting to life. Elements from Arthurian legend are woven into the narrative, which concludes on the eve of the Battle of Arfderydd in 573 AD. Since Languoreth is not only a young woman with very limited power in a warrior society, but a healer, she must deal with the human consequences of war and acts of violence. She strives bravely, but the odds are overwhelming and moments of happiness fleeting. Without the balance of heroic achievement on the battlefield, the perspective is dark, the suffering palpable. Strongly recommended.