Monday, March 8, 2021

Daughter of Black Lake - Cathy Marie Buchanan


Summary: In a world of pagan traditions and deeply rooted love, a girl in jeopardy must save her family and community, in a transporting historical novel by nationally 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. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  I’ve read quite a bit of historical fiction, and I really enjoy it. I do love history and I love what good historical fiction does for it. Whether the historical fiction is based on a real character’s life or not, I feel like I understand so many things better when I read it—history, culture, society then and society now. How can we not be what our past has created? How can we avoid the mistakes of the past if we don’t learn about it? Why reinvent the proverbial wheel when something in history has worked, even if it’s just the base of an idea or action? Anyway, since historical fiction is such a popular genre, I know I’m not alone in thinking this, and since ya’ll are dedicated readers of this blog and therefore love reading in general, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

That all being said, I have to admit that I have not read a lot of historical fiction that is this old. Daughter of Black Lake takes place in the first century in the bogs of Britannia. I’ve seen quite a bit about this time in history—it’s an important time. Buchanan referenced many of the books she read (emphasis on many. She did a lot of research!) and I’ve heard of a couple of them at least. The bog people were an interesting people who lived at a unique time and place. Reading this book about them was super interesting, and I think that the thing that caught me most off guard was how different things are from modern society. That seems obvious, right? However, even the names, practices, seasons, etc., were just really different and foreign. The story itself just felt old. These were an ancient people, and their beliefs and ways of life were really foreign. I have a direct personal connection to Britain, especially Scotland and England where my ancestors came from (my Granny emigrated from Scotland, so she still has family there and such. My mom used to go stay there in the summers to visit with her Granny. Anyway, this is not distant). However, this was so ancient it felt like a completely different world…which I guess it was. I loved the pervasive feeling of time and place in this book. It really was very atmospheric.

This book is written in two different viewpoints, that of Devout (the mother), and Hobble (her daughter). Devout’s viewpoints were written in the past, telling the story, and Hobble’s were written in present tense with the story. It was an interesting way to discover things about both of them, and I loved the allegory and ancient practices. It is mind blowing to think where we as humans are today (for better or for worse) as compared to where humans were a couple thousand years ago. I love books that bring to light the history of culture and humans, and this book did just that.

The story itself was interesting but also difficult to read in some parts. These are not modern people with modern scruples. However, I believe it’s important to understand what life was like for people other than ourselves (and this is true for all reading). It wasn’t a super fast read, but it did move along and didn’t take long to finish. Once you figure out the naming system and keep all the characters straight, it makes it much easier. Naming people after their characteristics is super interesting (and makes a lot of sense), and is a lot different than what we do today, so it did take some time in getting familiar with that system.

Overall, I found this to be a really interesting book about a really interesting time. If you’re into historical fiction, especially ancient historical fiction, I think you should check it out. If you have any connection to Britannia or Roman occupation (or Druids!), this is also a really great read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has violence that is described but not overly gory or gratuitous. However, these are not modern people with modern scruples.

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