I have always loved Arthurian legends, and assumed that they had their origin in real men and women whose actual stories were lost to the mist of time, whose legends were shaped by the norms and values of those telling them in the centuries after they lived. Now author Signe Pike has researched the lands of the Britons as they were in the sixth and seventh centuries, read source material, and filled in gaps to weave together a fantastic new Arthurian legend for our time.
Myrddin (the double d is pronounced th) was also known as Lailoken, and he had a twin sister named Languoreth. In AD 580, Lailoken is a Wisdom Keeper and follows the Old Way and the old gods. Languoreth is married to a local chieftain whose father, a minor king, has chosen to follow a version of Christianity. As the book opens, Languoreth’s husband and son are going to battle against her brothers and cousins, and her husband locks her in her room to prevent her from trying to stop them. Her young daughter Angharad, age 8, has been sent to live with her uncle Lailoken for training as a Wisdom Keeper, and she’s there when her father and brothers show up for a battle that will leave the Pendragon’s Dragon Warriors severely depleted. Lailoken goes into exile, and Languoreth uses her wits to preserve her kingdom.
The Forgotten Kingdom follows the story lines of Lailoken, Languoreth and Angharad, who grows from a child into a young woman over the course of the book. It’s really well done, and presents us with a world in which the Britons (modern day Welsh and Scots) are living uneasily beside the Picts and fighting to preserve their lands from the invading Angles. The two religions are also uneasily co-existing. Languoreth is a wise and canny woman who is able to take matters into her own hands. Angharad is shown to have powers as her attempt to escape the battle lead her to travel all over the island, into the land of the Picts and beyond.
This is the second book in the trilogy but I had no trouble reading it as a stand alone. I will be reading the first, and I’m waiting with great anticipation for the 3rd book to release. Signe Pike has done a marvelous job of recreating an ancient world. While I suspect she hasn’t entirely captured how ancient people thought, her world-building is spot-on and her story-telling skills are marvelous. This is a book to read and re-read. Highly recommended.