In keeping with my current run of reading historical fiction, The Lost Queen is an engaging read. It’s slow, and it ultimately builds to an abrupt end that fails to satisfy.
Languoreth is a fortunate girl born into interesting times. She is a twin, born under good omens to a witch of the Old Ways (the book calls them Wisdom Keepers, you may know them as Druids) and a fair and wise petty king. (Caveat: “fair and wise” according to what that would have meant as a noble in the Dark Ages. Dude wasn’t exactly nice.)
At the beginning of the book, Languoreth’s mother has just passed, and her childhood is beginning the inexorable slide into adulthood. The realities of the world are coming for her: a brother is sent off to war against the invading Angles, Christians are starting to push out the Old Ways. Languoreth envies her twin brother’s path–he has begun his training as a Wisdom Keeper, as their mother had been. But Languoreth has not been called, and as a daughter of a king, her destiny is to be matched in a politically advantageous marriage.
Pike writes beautifully, and the world is carefully drawn, but the story is ponderous. There is conflict with a Christian monk that is deliciously tense until it isn’t and then it’s dispensed with. The battle with the Angles is rising in pitch, but we see very little of it from Languoreth’s perspective yet.
And, most of all, Languoreth was a challenging character for me to like. In these kinds of novels, where court politics is the game, I want to see the politically naive character become adept at maneuvering the other characters over time, or at least to learn to protect themselves. Languoreth never quite manages it in this first installment. Perhaps it will come later in the trilogy. Until then, I don’t like her well enough to root for her. I have sympathy for what she’s going through–I empathize with her dissatisfaction with her fate as opposed to that of her brother–but I’m not actively rooting for her. I’m not invested in her relationship with her One True Love. I’m not invested in her acting as a protector of The Old Ways (which she’s being set up to be). I just don’t care.
This might be a series that I need to wait until it has finished to see if I would like to complete the story. The upside of the abrupt fade to black at the end is that I don’t feel like I’m missing anything if I stop right here.