June 09, 2014

Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon took the story of Arthur and changed it so that the perspective was from a woman.  And then a series was spawned from it.  Priestess of Avalon is one of those books in the series, although I couldn't tell you what order they should be in as it doesn't seem to matter what order you read them in.

Helena, also known as Eilan, was born of the Lady of Avalon and also caused her death.  She is sent to her father as a child and only returns to Avalon ten years later, to start her training as a priestess.  There she clashes with the new Lady of Avalon, who is her aunt, and it comes to a head when she substitutes herself as his priestess at a ritual.  She is cast out of Avalon and travels with this Roman man as his companion, becoming his wife in all but name and eventually bearing his son Constantine, who will be a great man in his own right some day.  But she still feels the call of Avalon from time to time, and misses her sisterhood of priestesses.

Helena is mostly Helena in this book and not really her British side.  She spends the majority of her life with the Romans and as a wife and a mother rather than a priestess.  She does call upon her powers from time to time but this is more the story of a noble lady rather than an Avalon priestess.  I do appreciate that she liked her dogs though and had many throughout the story.  I really couldn't care either way about any of the other characters.  They weren't described as much as Helena and seemed only there to prop her up on her journey rather than be their own persons.  Except for her son Constantine, he was so fervent in his desires that it was hard to like him.  Although he did get a lot done.

Despite this being a large book it was exceptionally fast paced.  The course of eighty years is told in it and it flies by with big jumps in time with each chapter.  It was a little confusing because of that, but luckily at the start of each chapter the year was given so that helped a little.  This being a story about a cast out priestess was different from the rest of the series too as most usually take place close to Avalon and Helena traveled all over the Roman empire.  I can't say that it held quite the same charm and power that Mists of Avalon did, but it was still a pretty good story in its own right.

If you like the works of Bradley, you'll like this one in the series.  It follows a strong woman and her adventures in a world that doesn't always appreciate strong women.

Priestess of Avalon
Copyright 2002
394 pages

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