I picked up Robert Low’s historical fiction novel The Lion Wakes at the library and, as per my usual routine, read the first pages to see if it grabbed my attention. All seemed well and, as an added bonus, this novel is the first in a series about Scotland’s tumultuous history in the late 13th century. I’m a series lover, eagerly anticipating the next installment.
By page 84, I had no clue who anyone was, as characters were not consistently referred to by a specific name, and there was substantial dialogue spoken in old Scots which I could not comprehend. The author does not assist the reader by translating into English, either through further dialogue or narrative, which left me baffled as to what events were taking place and why.
When I admitted defeat at page 84, the protagonist had somehow sworn allegiance to a lord that was contrary to his familial loyalty and engaged in a battle that I had no clue as to why it was happening.
I have read historical fiction novels before that have used Old English, French and Spanish, but the author always made the reader aware of what had been said through a variety of techniques. I can understand, maybe, Robert Low wanted to make his historical fiction novel more authentic using an antiquated language, but surely he could have utilized interpretation methods that would not have disrupted the the flow of the novel.
It was only when I was typing out this blog and checked the end of the book to see how many pages it runs that I discovered a glossary and list of characters. For the life of me, I can’t understand why these valuable tools are not placed in the forefront for the reader’s reference. Even with this discovery, I am not even slightly tempted to attempt to continue reading The Lion Wakes.
I consider myself a fairly intelligent and well-read person, so for me to admit defeat with a book generally signifies substandard writing.
Maybe you might like to give The Lion Wakes an opportunity now that you know there is a glossary and list of characters but, for me, this is not a novel I recommend.
Rating: 1 star * (not recommended)
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