Cover Image: Daughter of Black Lake

Daughter of Black Lake

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This was fine, but not particularly memorable or special for me. Daughter of Black Lake follows a mother and daughter, Devout and Hobble, living as “bog dwellers” (Celtics) in Britain around the time of the Roman invasion of the island. Weaving their two narratives with alternating timelines, we learn more of Devout’s secretive past and Hobble’s prophetic abilities, which become particularly dangerous when a power-hungry druid begins using their small, isolated community as an outpost for rebellion.

While I was initially intrigued by the historical period of this novel (I took Latin as my language of choice, so I find classical antiquity to be quite a fascinating period of history and also was also intrigued to see archeology as history play out in this novel), I soon became fairly disinterested with the plotlines, particularly Devout’s, which devolves into a “torn between two loves” story with, in my opinion, a fairly bland and unlikeable primary love interest. I also frequently look to see authentic historical detail in my favorite historical fiction and, unfortunately, I really did not learn anything new about the culture of the Celtics from reading this novel.

Finally, I am not sure about the disability representation in this novel—I will be intrigued to see own-voices reviews on this aspect because the portrayal of Hobble’s disability just kind of rubbed me the wrong way (in that there’s a lot of value-judgment placed on being able-bodied, which while potentially historically accurate, just felt unnecessary and an odd choice by the author to focus the story on this topic so heavily without thinking about a way in which to make the discussion more nuanced).

All in all, I thought this was quite average and I’m not quite sure I would recommend it (unless, perhaps, you are an avid reader of more commercial-leaning historical fiction, in which case you may enjoy this? idk).

Was this review helpful?

The characters of Hobble and Devout were so interesting and I loved reading about each of them. I thought the historical atmosphere was phenomenal and I loved the alternating timelines.

Was this review helpful?

I requested an ARC of Daughter of Black Lake because I loved the author's first novel, The Painted Girls. In other words, I went into reading Daughter of Black Lake with a lot of assumptions. The first part of my reading process was disappointing because for the most part I was letting go of those assumptions and embracing the book for what it is. Once I embraced the book for what it is, I found it a deeply engaging read: one of those "just one more chapter" books that leave once exhauted and bleary-eyed the next morning.

Daughter of Black Lake is set in Britain during the Roman occupation. The Romans aren't much of a presence around Black Lake, a tiny hamlet perched at the edge of a bog, but the knowledge that they could appear at any moment shapes much of the narrative. Some people in Black Lake see the occupation as an opportunity: to learn new skills, to move beyond their old boundaries, and to make money. Others see the occupation as a threat to their entire lifeway, which is shaped by by Druid beliefs and practices.*

Hobble, the book's central narrator, is simultaneously less-than and more-than those she lives with. As her name suggests, she disabled, though not significantly. She walks with a limp, but her father has taught her her to run, and she's a swift as anyone else just a bit more ungainly. And in this Druid world, where the runts and imperfect animals are chosen for sacrifice, disability puts one at specific risk: there haven't been any human sacrifices in a generation, but those with weaknesses know that, if that changes, they may be the ones paying with their lives. At the same time, Hobble is a Seer. She'll be stopped in her tracks by a flash of blinding white light only she can see, then finds herself viewing images of some future event or location. This is primarily a pragmatic skill: she knows where clusters of mushrooms grow hidden, she easily collects plants for her work as a healer, she sometimes plays with her friends telling them where they'll find a particular stone or other item. But Hobble can't choose what she'll see or when she sees it, so when others want her to use this gift for a specific purpose, she can't.

Smith and Devout, Hobble's parents, have a relationship at once loving and distant. They hold secrets from one another, and neither fully knows the other. With her gifts, Hobble sees each of them more clearly than they see the other, but Hobble's understanding of their relationship remains incomplete.

The plot is moved along by the arrival of a Druid priest determined to inspire the villagers to a final uprising against the Romans. He's keeping a close eye on Hobble and her family, who can't be sure whether this attention reflects respect for her gift or disdain that might lead to Hobble being seen as a candidate for sacrifice.

What I particularly enjoyed about this novel is the way the two narratives—Hobble's growing understanding of her parents and the tensions the Druid's presence creates in Black Lake—play out in tandem, making the book simultaneously mythic and very human in scale.

I strongly recommend this title, which rewards readers on multiple levels. You may find the start a bit slow, but trust that you'll be caught up in the novel's tale and characters if you just keep reading.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. The opinions are my own.

*(Note: I know next to nothing about the actual Druid faith and Druid practices. Buchanan clearly did due diligence in depicting this world, but I can't tell you how well her depiction lines up with historical reality. If you've read this book and know more than I do about historical Druid identity, please leave a comment. I'd love to read your thoughts.)

Was this review helpful?

This is a great way to immerse yourself in Roman Britain. Instead of focusing on the big names of the time (Boudicca), the story centers on the young female healers of a small tribe near a bog. Smith, Hobble, and Devout’s family becomes dear to the reader as we follow them across many years of famine, harvest, and war.
Fans of history and archaeology will enjoy this novel. The imagined fate of a famous bog body is included.

Was this review helpful?

The story and characters are compelling. Hobble's life experience and the conflict between the incoming Romans and the Druids make for a good plot center, but I think that there are times that the language and writing get me out of the time period this is supposed to take place in.

Was this review helpful?

In this book, we follow Devout (note: all characters are named based off of a defining trait) who is 13-14, She is coming of age in a harsh landscape (think several hundred years ago).

Her world is narrow, and unforgiving. And despite all that, she's finding her place in this world - gently flirting with a neighbor who might just be something more.

And we also follow Hobble. Hobble's timeline is set seventeen years later (she's the daughter of Devout and...she's hobbled. She limps as she walks but she's bound and determined to NOT be the weakest in the village (cause...apparently that can sometimes get you sacrificed to the Gods).

Despite her disability, Hobble is the swiftest in the village and the only one who can see visions of the future - sometimes as simple as knowing when to catch a falling bird and others that foretell the coming of the Romans and death to many.

In Hobble's time, there is famine among their people and when a new druid comes to town, Hobble will need to keep one step ahead to keep herself and her family safe.

This book, it is on the edge of greatness.

I quite liked it - the pacing, the characters and the dark ambiance are all so different from the modern way to tell a story. It sucked me right in.

The way the Pagan ways play out and the druid's influence was also really interesting.

Devout and Hobble were both such compelling main characters and I found myself unable to put down this book. However, I can definitely see it not being for everyone.

There are uncomfortable moments - not full out triggering but made my modern self squirm.

All in all, this one was darkly devastating and completely engaging.

Was this review helpful?

Richly detailed with well written characters, this book gives the reader a glimpse into the ancient past of the British Isles.

Was this review helpful?

Fantasy for Young Adults, druid fans. I liked the descriptions of characters and castes.
The idea of sacrifice and how runts or disabled children were treated, was not something I wanted to read about.
That's just my personal opinion.

Was this review helpful?

Evocative novel set in Britain as the Romans were driving out the Druids.
Alternating between mother and daughters point of view, as each of them is growing up, in very different times, we see how people may have lived long ago, via caste, seasons and work.

Was this review helpful?

Daughter of Black Lake is an atmospheric tale of two women in first century Brittania seeking meaning and companionship in their small, isolated settlement. The chapters alternate between the present-day and the past, following Hobble, a young prophetess who faces the menacing arrival of a devout druid named Fox to Black Lake, and her mother Devout as a teenager who must decide between two men she cares for.

Cathy Marie Buchanan's descriptions of the bog, the fields, and the lake were highly evocative and immersive. The tension from the encroaching Roman invasion acted as a parallel to the tension between old and new within the Black Lake settlement. The novel was sometimes non-linear, with memories and visions interrupting current events in a stream-of-consciousness style. This could be a bit confusing at times, but it did make the characters feel more naturally human.

There was not a strong plot driving the story, as it was more of an exploration of characters and community. I found Hobble's chapters much more compelling than Devout's, especially due to her visions and her disability (the limp that gave her the name 'Hobble'). Devout's chapters fell a bit too into the love-triangle trope for me, but the complex connections she felt with both Arc, her first 'mate,' and Smith, Hobble's father, were fleshed out well.

[3.5/5: Overall, a well-written historical novel with a touch of magic/religion and a distinct setting. It was a bit too meandering for me at times, but readers that enjoy fantastical touches to their historical fiction, enjoy complicated and flawed female characters, or who seek unconventional stories set in late antiquity will find something to enjoy here.]

Was this review helpful?

This is, for the most part, a quiet story that crafts, in great detail, life in pre-Roman/gradually-Romanizing Britain. Buchanan focuses on one village on the outskirts of famous rebellions, a place where life moves at the pace of the seasons. We experience it through the eyes of two women, mother and daughter, as each moves through the at the cusp of girlhood into womanhood. Their unassuming village (in what is now northern Wales, as best I can figure) becomes the unlikely focal point of a tug-of-war between the ancient druidic power structure and the invading, modernizing Romans. The story is brilliantly detailed and the characters compelling, relatable despite how far removed their world (and thus worldview) is from our own.

This book reminded me of Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series in some ways, though without the overt dark-fairy-tale quality.

Was this review helpful?

Buchanan provides a very different take on druids in her lyrical novel. Recommended for readers who enjoyed Signe Pike's "The Lost Queen."

Was this review helpful?

This is a very interesting novel. The writing is a bit slow in the beginning, as it took me a long time to become really curious about the story line or the characters. I really don't know if I would consider this a historical fiction novel, it almost has too many mystical elements to it.

Was this review helpful?

Eerily similar to the plight that we are facing today. . .

While this book was slow in the beginning, around midway it really picked up speed and I am so happy I stuck with it! The pacing was done in a very precise and thoughtful manner. Too much, too soon would have been all wrong for this novel. It was tightly wound and smart.
This book's time period is first century AD. I'm not used to reading books that take place so long ago, but it was certainly enlightening. The story follows a girl named Devout and what happens when her entire community is at risk. Famine was a big issue back then and that is also discussed. There were notes in this book that reminded me of what we are going through now. It was an excellent book and just shows how varied of a writer Buchanan is. Great work!

Was this review helpful?