I love me the Arthurian mythos stories recast with historical attention to detail and battles and place names. (Like Ruth Nestvold’s Pendragon Chronicles, Mary Stewart’s Myrddin Emrys etc) And The Lost Queen was satisfyingly historical with attention paid to different iterations of the names (although it took me a while to figure out how Merlin would result from Lailoken), shifting Brit/Pict/Angle alliances, and the depiction of St. Kentigern/Mungo as more or less ambitious and power-hungry.
We enter this world through the young eyes of Languoreth, the daughter of a lower king in ancient Scotland (near Strathclyde). She and her twin brother roam free in the forests under the watchful eyes of her nursemaid and the Keeper of Wisdom (druid) Cathan.
But while her brother gets Cathan’s teaching because he, too will become a Keeper of Wisdom, Languoreth knows she must marry for political alliance. Her father has pledged allegiance to the High King in Strathclyde, and must be prepared to be called on by the rising Dragon Warriors under Emrys Pendragon as well as deal with increasingly power-hungry incursions against his lands by Christians.
Just before she is pledged to wed the High King’s son himself, Languoreth meets the Dragon Warriors and falls in love.
As a story of Languoreth and what is possible for women of that time, this is interesting as it at times too accurately portrays the limitations of Languoreth’s life. I definitely felt sometimes like following Lailoken would have been much more interesting, as well as got a little frustrated by the fast-forwarding through great swaths of time (notably a huuuuuuge chunk from marriage to already-grown children)
This is not an entirely magic-free version of events, there are hints of enchantment and druidic augers, which I enjoyed. And guessing which characters were which parts of the Arthurian mythos definitely was fun. The political context here dealing with the various tribes and factions as well as Christian/Druid were definitely interesting.
But the ending is a giant, gaping open ended hole in the story (as I guess one could imagine since this is a trilogy) that I felt did not adequately give us payback for Languoreth’s story or the sacrifices she made (as well as wishing for a bit of HEA for her).
Overall, interesting historical names and factions, a great start to the story with young Languoreth that firmly planted me in her camp, and then a bit too much fastforwarding for my taste.