The Forgotten Kingdom is the second in a trilogy that takes us back to right before Arthur, telling us the story of Merlin’s sister whose existence is suggested by a 13th-century poem of him in dialogue with his sister. Signe Pike did a lot of research on the literature and history of the era and of the different tribal groups sharing the British Isles and used that knowledge to take a wild leap into her imagination, crafting an incredible story of a woman the world only barely knows existed.

This story weaves together three narrative threads, Lailoken (Merlin,) his sister Languoreth, and her daughter Angharad, or as they are named. Lailoken had taken Angharad with him to Uther Pendragon’s kingdom to teach her the ways of the Wisdom Keepers as those with magic were called. Lailoken’s husband joins with Uther’s enemies to attack them even though his daughter is there and she is lost after the battle and Lailoken barely survives, retreating to an ancient hermitage for an ancient and dangerous ritual. Angharad tries to get home but instead ends up far away among the Picts, an ancient tribe of people whose history is lost to memory, giving Pike a lot of freedom to invent. There she grows up among her grandmother’s people. How they are brought back together again is the stuff of legends.

I have mixed feelings about The Forgotten Kingdom. On one hand, it was thrilling to read, bold, imaginative, and breathless in pacing. On the other hand, I read it a week ago and my sleep schedule is still out of whack from staying up to read it from beginning to end. I loved it. I want to read “The Lost Queen” which is the first and frankly, September 2023 when the third book will be published cannot come soon enough.

So, I nearly gave up on the book during the first few chapters, though I think this was a product of reading a second book without reading the first. Overall, the first book was not necessary to enjoy the second or understand the story. Pike did an excellent job of carving out space for this book to stand on its own. However, since people were introduced in the first, she didn’t spend a lot of time introducing them in the second, so at first, I was overwhelmed by the names of people and places. I think it likely that would not have happened if I had read “The Lost Queen” before The Forgotten Kingdom.

And let’s just admit those ancient names are hard. So many consonants! People who avoid books written by African, Asian, or Arabic writers because of difficult names obviously have not read books about ancient Celts and Britons. Anyway, once I just stopped resisting the names and let myself sink into the story, I didn’t come up for air until the end. It is that good.

I received an e-galley of The Forgotten Kingdom from the publisher through NetGalley