Having really enjoyed Priestess of Avalon in the same series, I'd been looking forward to this book but felt rather disappointed by it in the end. Set earlier in the series, it mainly concerns Gaius, a young man of half-Roman, half-Briton heritage, and Eilan, a young girl brought up around the priestesses of the Forest House.
The narrative shifts between these two protagonists frequently, and every so often they come together. Their first meeting occurs right at the start of the book (after the rather flowing introductory sequence involving Eilan and another initiate from the House of Maidens stripping off for a holy bath, with cold water causing their nipples to harden, etc. etc... fortunately this isnít indicative of the book as a whole!) when Gaius, escaping from a battle, falls into a local trap in the dark. He is rescued by Eilanís kin and forms a strong bond with both her and her brother but keeps his Roman identiy secret for fear that they will kill him if they find out. Instead, he uses the name that his British mother first gave him: Gawen.
Much of the novel is devoted to the internal struggles of Gawen and his Roman/British heritage, Eilan and her love for Gawen and devotion to the Goddess, and their doomed love affair. Other characters include Dieda, Eilanís friend who looks so like her that it causes a tragic mix-up; Cynric, Eilanís brother who openly offers friendship to Gawen but ends up a bitter enemy when the fact that heís Roman becomes known; and Caillean, who seems to hate just about everyone but forms a bond with Eilan that neither of them understand.
Though it starts of well enough, The Forest House quickly becomes bogged down by over-elaborate prose, and the pacing slows almost to a standstill among several over-repetitive scenes and women sitting around complaining about men (though to be fair they criticize each other almost as much). In the mid-section of the book, I lost the connection I was beginning to form with some of the books' characters, some of which were definitely interesting, but eventually their stories were lost in a sea of events which seemed to have all happened before.
The story does pick up again toward the end, but again, there is far too much repetition (in the form of repeated descriptive phrases rather than locations and scenes, which was the case earlier in the book) and a disappointing ending prevents it from ever reaching the promise shown in the first fifty pages or so. In the end, itís actually quite difficult to care much about even the main characters.
Although the potential for a great book is there, overall I wouldn't particularly recommend The Forest House (Avalon, Book 2) to any but devoted fans of the Avalon series.