Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Daughter of Black Lake is about a society that finds itself on the brink of change—caught between time-honored traditions and the forces of modernization. Which characters are trying to protect the old ways and which are interested in the Romans? What accounts for these differences in opinion? Is there a correct opinion, in your view?
2. The novel begins with an epigraph from Plutarch: “Hatred is blind as well as love.” How do you think this quote applies to Daughter of Black Lake?
3. The narrative shifts back and forth between the perspectives of the strong-willed Hobble and her mother Devout, the healer at Black Lake. How has the settlement changed in the seventeen years between Devout’s youth and Hobble’s coming of age? What does Devout reveal to Hobble about the time before, and what does she withhold? How are traditions, stories, and knowledge passed down from Devout to Hobble?
4. Discuss the love triangle between Devout, Young Smith, and Arc. Young Smith is a hardworking, kind ironworker from a powerful clan, while Arc is a humble orphan, with nothing to offer but his own devotion. What factors complicate Devout’s choice between them? What do you think about the choices she makes? What choice would you have made in her position?
5. At one point, Devout flings open her arms and exclaims, “Imagine a world without magic.” What is the role of magic in the world of Black Lake?
6. Discuss the daily and seasonal rituals that continually remind the bog dwellers of their dependence on the earth’s benevolence. In modern times, most would agree we’ve diminished our connection to the natural world. In doing so, what have we lost?
7. Even in the close-knit community of Black Lake, there are profound differences in social class and power. What accounts for these differences? How are they represented? How do Young Smith’s fortunes change over the course of the novel and why?
8. What do Feeble and the blind boy show us about how weakness is perceived in Black Lake? How does Hobble surmount her own perceived weakness? What does the sacrifice of the blind boy illustrate about the importance of the individual versus the collective in this society?
9. Devout hides the true parentage of Hobble from Smith. What are the implications of her deception? Should she have told Smith the truth earlier? How might it have altered her life with Smith?
10. One of the most wrenching scenes in the book takes place when the druid Fox commands his final sacrifice. What do you think about the choice the community makes to protect Hobble? What does this choice say about their changing attitudes?
11. What compels Devout to return home at the end of the novel? How do you think she will be received by Hobble, Smith, and the community at Black Lake
12. How did Daughter of Black Lake change or inform your perceptions of the Iron Age? In what ways is fiction uniquely suited to helping readers learn about history? What did you get from Daughter of Black Lake that you might not have gotten from a nonfiction book of history?
13. Do you think Daughter of Black Lake is a hopeful book? What does the novel have to say about the profound shifting of the world, and do you see any relevance in its themes to our contemporary society?