STARRED REVIEW
September 2018

A lyrical new historical saga

By Signe Pike
Review by

Great historical novels make you feel that you’re immersed in the periods they’re set in. The best ones can make you see it, smell it and feel it on your skin. That’s a difficult trick to pull off, which is why so many historical novels have such a narrow but intense focus. The Lost Queen, Signe Pike’s debut novel set in sixth-century Scotland, is the rare historical epic that manages to be truly sweeping and yet always intense and personal—at once a romance, a story of faith, a story of war and a story of family without ever sacrificing one element to focus on another. The romance does not cancel out the palace intrigue, the faith does not cancel out the magic, and the war does not cancel out the intimate moments of discovery and history. It’s all there at once, each element as rich as any other.

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Great historical novels make you feel that you’re immersed in the periods they’re set in. The best ones can make you see it, smell it and feel it on your skin. That’s a difficult trick to pull off, which is why so many historical novels have such a narrow but intense focus. The Lost Queen, Signe Pike’s debut novel set in sixth-century Scotland, is the rare historical epic that manages to be truly sweeping and yet always intense and personal—at once a romance, a story of faith, a story of war and a story of family without ever sacrificing one element to focus on another. The romance does not cancel out the palace intrigue, the faith does not cancel out the magic, and the war does not cancel out the intimate moments of discovery and history. It’s all there at once, each element as rich as any other.

The titular lost queen is Languoreth, the twin sister of the man believed to have inspired the legend of Merlin. Beginning with Languoreth as a girl shortly after the death of her mother, the novel follows her—with a beautifully crafted first-person voice—through early womanhood, into motherhood and across a legendary era caught between the old ways and the new.

Languoreth’s narration, coupled with the sense that we get to discover the intrigues and mysteries of her world along with her as she ages, is the key to the novel’s success. Pike strikes the right balance of immersive historical detail and sincere emotional resonance, and it never falters throughout the book. By the end, you feel happily lost in this mist-shrouded place in history, and you only wish you could stay there longer.

Moving, thrilling and ultimately spellbinding, The Lost Queen is perfect for readers of historical fiction like Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and for lovers of fantasy like Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Lost Queen

The Lost Queen

By Signe Pike
Touchstone
ISBN 9781501191411

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