THE PLOT: ‘Daughter of Black Lake’ by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a historical novel set in Iron Age Britain. Hobble is a young woman with a lame leg, but she is blessed with the gift of prophecy. Her mother, Devout, blames herself for Hobble’s affliction as she is keeping a secret. When Hobble foresees the Romans invading her remote village, she tries to warn her community. However, a druid arrives intent on protecting Britain’s native traditions and uniting the chieftains in war against the Romans. Can Hobble warn her community before it’s too late? And will revealing the truth about their inevitable demise end up exposing her mother’s secret?
RATING: Four stars. This book had such a strong atmosphere, I truly felt like I was in ancient Britain. From descriptions of the misty bog to the way the characters were tied into nature and the Gods, the author did a brilliant job of conjuring a time from which few records survive. At first, I struggled with the voice of the main character and was worried that the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations. However, once I’d got into the rhythm of the novel, I was completely sucked in. With great world-building, beautiful writing, compelling characters and a plot packed with twists, I’d highly recommend this book to ancient history fans.
GOOD BITS: I’m a huge ancient history nerd and I feel like this book is the first-time ancient Britain has been brought to life for me. Usually, I praise the characters or plot (both of which were good in this book), but what really stood out was the imagery. I feel like the author spent a lot of time researching and describing the setting, which gave this book a feeling of authenticity. Nature is also a key theme, which is shown by the blessings that the characters give Mother Earth, the prominence of the seasons and descriptions of different plants. All of these details, and how integral they were to the characters, is what really made this book sing.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Although you wouldn’t know from my plot summary, this book alternates POV between Hobble and her mother (Devout) and there is a dual time. I found it hard to describe the plot in a way which ties together both storylines and I don’t think the blurb does this very well (I didn’t realise it was dual POV until I started reading), which highlights a slight issue with this book. The mother’s backstory is very interesting, and it certainly adds to the novel, but it doesn’t feel fully integrated. It’s hard to explain because there are some potential spoilers that bring the two storylines together but it just didn’t feel 100% seamless. Ultimately, I feel like Hobble’s storyline is the most compelling and the true focus of the book.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Circe’ by Madeleine Miller (setting/vibe), ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent (atmosphere/imagery) and ‘Hag: Forgotten Folktales retold’. I bought this from Folio Books in San Francisco because it was a staff pick and I’d never heard of it before. I’m so glad I gave a chance to a book I haven’t seen much on the ‘gram. Hopefully, I’ll see it promoted more because I know all of you who love mythological retellings will enjoy this novel.