Published by Riverhead Books on October 6, 2020
Source: the publisher
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In a world of pagan traditions and deeply rooted love, a girl in jeopardy must save her family and community. A transporting historical novel by New York Times-bestselling author Cathy Marie Buchanan.
It’s the season of Fallow, in the era of iron. In a northern misty bog surrounded by woodlands and wheat fields, a settlement lies far beyond the reach of the Romans invading hundreds of miles to the southeast. Here, life is simple–or so it seems to the tightly knit community. Sow. Reap. Honor Mother Earth, who will provide at harvest time. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she’s tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout’s young daughter, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community.
Set in a time long forgotten, Daughter of Black Lake brings the ancient world to life and introduces us to an unforgettable family facing an unimaginable trial.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Daughter of Black Lake is an immersive, atmospheric story, which is exactly what I was hoping for when I chose to read it. The story is set in the first century AD, during the time when the Romans invaded Britain. I love reading historical fiction stories set in very early times, but I can’t say that I’ve ever read any stories from this exact time and this exact setting. The story is told from the perspectives the people of Britannia as they feared the day the Romans would come to their community prepared to fight.
We hear from both Hobble and her mother Devout. Hobble is a young girl with a limp, hence her name. According to the old ways of her people, sacrifices sometimes must be made to appease the gods, and it was usually the sickest or weakest animal or human in the group. Hobble’s walking impediment makes her the obvious choice, if the druids ever decide a human must be sacrificed. In Hobble’s POV, we get to see how the community interacts with and fears the instruction of the druid priests, who seem to be direct lines to the gods but often are seen as harsh and demanding.
Devout’s POV tells the story of how she came to be married to Hobble’s father, Smith. There were very specific circumstances that led up to a marriage match, and a very specific ceremony, and all of this was super interesting to read. There is some tension between Devout and her husband, and the story progresses until we finally get to figure out what happened to make them hold one another at arm’s length. In her own POV, Hobble tries to figure out what is going on with her parents, while also trying to balance life in Black Lake with the constant threat of invasion by the Romans.
Early in the story, we find that Hobble and Devout have a magic about them: they are seers. Hobble especially tries to keep her sight a secret, but this is very difficult once Fox the druid priest comes and insists on staying in the family’s house. The relationship between Fox and Hobble is very tense throughout the story. I sort of wish there were some chapters from the druid’s point of view, because his thoughts must have certainly been quite the opposite of most of the other characters.
I really enjoyed reading this one, from start to finish. The setting was pretty vivid in my mind, and I feel like I got a nice glimpse at how things may have been for those living in the more remote parts of Britannia after the time of Julius Caesar. I loved watching these characters move about in their world, doing each of their day-to-day activities. I anticipated that I would like this one before I ever started it; I found that I liked it more than I imagined I would. It’s a little bit dark at times and these characters have a lot of hard choices to make, but all of the vivid details and the resilience of these people make for a great story.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the story!
She shook debris from the lower edge of her dress. No, not with Young Smith’s amulet hanging on her neck. But Arc, who took in the world around him, would follow her trail of disturbed underbrush and stones, and in no time, he would approach laughing, holding out a thread from her dress, a lump of dried mud fallen from her shoe, and so she worked the knots, loosening the amulet. She lifted it over her head and slipped it into the pocket of her cape. Then she answered his call, though what she really wanted was solitude, time to ponder Young Smith, his gift.
Arc appeared before Devout, wrists extending well past the rim of his skin cape and his toes poking from the scraps of hide laced around his feet. He plucked a twig from her hair and said, “I have a gift for you.” A teasing smile came to his mouth. “Guess what i tis.”
She lifted a shoulder.
“It isn’t something I can give you at the feast,” he said.
Despite the amulet settled in her pocket and a looming sense that keeping it hidden there was somehow deceitful, she smiled. She liked this game. She liked Arc, too, his lankiness; his flaxen hair; his quiet voice and pale, watchful eyes. She liked that he meant to give her a gift—nothing too precious, for, same as she, he was a hand. “Not a stone, then. Not a shell.”
“It’s something begun before Fallow.” She again lifted a shoulder.
“It’s something you want,” he said.
What was it she wanted? A fertile Hope? A quiet moment to consider the amulet that weighed in her pocket? To sort through all that had just taken place with Young Smith?
“You’ve kept to the edges of the woodland,” he said. “I like knowing my gift is something you’ve been looking for today.”
“Sweet violets!” she exclaimed. “Come.”
-Excerpt from Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Published by Riverhead Books.