Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Published October 2020 by Riverhead Books 

Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

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. 

And Now For Something Different: 

This being 2020, we have to do everything a little (or a lot!) differently these days. Authors can't travel to publicize their books; they can't get out to meet us and read to us from their books. So publisher's are having to think of new ways to get the word out about their latest books. For Daughter of Black Lake, that means a progressive excerpt for those who follow along with this TLC Book Tours virtual tour. To read the first excerpt, head over to Savvy Verse and Wit for excerpt number one. Today, I'm happy to bring you excerpt number two:

"But with Mother Earth’s visit, the ewes would lamb well, perhaps even produce a set of twins. Their milk would come in. Stinging nettle leaves would unfurl, ready for the cauldron, while the stores still held enough oats to thicken the broth. The cough that had plagued a newborn for two moons would disappear. The bog dwellers would begin Hope — that season of birthing, sowing, and anticipation — free of worry and disease. Purified.
As she searched for sweet violet, Devout thought of the wild boar that a bog dweller called Young Hunter had slain. He had been so arrogant on his return to Black Lake, calling out for men to help haul the carcass, recounting how he had tracked the boar three days, but never once pausing his story to give Mother Earth the praises he was due. Even so, Devout salivated. This Fallow, like most every other, bellies had seldom been full. 
In preparation for the evening, Devout and the other maidens would bathe and comb out their hair and leave it unbound to show their purity and youth, and clasp over their shoulders woolen dresses that smelled of the breeze rather than unwashed flesh. Then they would call at each roundhouse in the clearing, collecting offerings of honeyand wheaten beer and bread still warm from the griddle. Last, they would stop at the largest of the roundhouses and find, above the firepit’s lapping flames, the expertly roasted boar. The girls would set aside part of their haul — an old custom, staunchly followed by the bog dwellers, and not only on so hallowed a night. Of all they reaped, they returned a third to Mother Earth, payment for taking what belonged to her. And then, fingers slick with grease, they would swallow pork and bread and wheaten beer until their bellies grew taut. Eventually the boys would come, rattle the barred door, and demand to be let in for the dancing and merrymaking that would last until daybreak.  
She heard the snap of a branch behind her and whipped around to see a boy a year older than she was. “Young Smith?” she said."


For the remaining excerpts, be sure to check out the full tour, linked below. 

My Thoughts:

I've talked before about my guilt about how little I actually spend on books, given how much I love them and want the authors to be able to afford to keep writing. So when Buchanan reached some weeks ago, I decided I would buy this one because it was a given that I would read it. I'm a huge fan of Buchanan's and I've been waiting seven years for this, her third, book. So perhaps all I really need to tell you about this book is that you should definitely hit up your local bookstore, buy a copy of this book, and help keep the bookstore in business and Buchanan writing. 

In 2010, I read Buchanan's The Day The Falls Stood Still; and, in 2013, her second novel, The Painted Girls. My recollection was that I had really enjoyed them and a re-read of my reviews confirms that. In both, I was particularly impressed by Buchanan's ability to blend fact and fiction and by her research. In Daughter of Black Lake, she has done it again. Inspired by the discovery of a body now known as Lindow Man, Buchanan has crafted a story to explain why this man might have died in the way he died. Because of this, Buchanan looks at first-century A.D. Britannia from a different perspective than we're accustomed to reading. The Romans are not the only people capable of doing terrible things to people. 

Her books are always intimate looks at the people history so often forgets. Here she looks at the way the beliefs of the people informed their lives in every way, from the ways they honored Mother Earth to the way they revered the druids who led them. Here we have a group of people who have begun to appreciate the things that the Romans have brought to their land (olive oil, stone roads, tempered steel) and who have also begun to question the wisdom of the druids. 

In a novel of just over 300 pages, there is not room or time enough to fully develop everyone of them and the reviewer at Kirkus Reviews felt that was a flaw of the book (don't read that review, they're wrong!). But we rarely get a complete cast of fully developed characters; it's just not necessary to most story lines. Buchanan brought these villagers to life for me and made me care about them and their survival. What's perhaps more impressive (especially knowing how rarely I buy into magic in books), I was completely ok with the supernatural ability that Buchanan introduces in order to help move her story along.

I raced through this book. Even though I suspected the big reveal that happens late in the book, I still didn't really know exactly how it would play out. And I loved that Buchanan doesn't tie things up neatly but leaves readers with hope that our characters will thrive and be happy. 

Now, for that link to the rest of the excerpts (and other opinions about the book), follow the tour here every day to continue reading.

About Cathy Marie Buchanan 

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the nationally bestselling novels The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls. She lives in Toronto. 

Find out more about Cathy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram

If you check out Buchanan's website, she goes into detail about the inspiration for this book - it's fascinating!


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