Click here to read reviewer Dave Seaman's take on Priestess of Avalon.
After much anticipation for the next foray into the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's brainchild Avalon, Priestess of Avalon comes to fruition thanks to her collaborator Diana L. Paxson, herself an accomplished author. Zimmer Bradley’s skeleton of an idea is fleshed out handsomely by the obvious in-depth research that Paxson contributes.
What happens when an Avalon princess, who is supposed to become the High Priestess one day, falls so deeply in love with a Roman (with his own impressive destiny before him) that she will forsake her heritage? What happens is that soul-searing choices must be made. First, Eilan, also known as Helena, throws caution to the wind by defying Ganeda -- who has little patience with her because she blames her birth for killing her sister.
After her dismissal from Avalon, Helena feels the agony of separation from the only family she has ever known. The couple work hard to build a happy life together, and all goes well except for the miscarriage of their first-born. Ganeda’s curse rings in Helena’s ears as she mourns the child.
Later, their happiness multiplies with the birth of their only son, Constantine, who is himself destined for glory and greatness. As their son matures, Rome runs through emperors like wine. Many are deposed by the age-old siege method, murder. Eventually it becomes clear that in order for Constantius to ascend the pinnacle of power, he must sacrifice the love of his life and marry another to become Emperor.
Once again, their lives come down to a choice, and Helena, not wishing to impede his greatness, urges him to do what he must. What follows is a more agonizing separation for Helena than she endured upon leaving Avalon. Only her son, Constantine, keeps her from losing her mind. Knowing that she must live to see his triumph spurs her on.
Death comes inevitably to all, even (sometimes especially) to emperors. Constantine succeeds his father upon his death, and Helena continues to aid him throughout the rest of her (public) life. She becomes a bridge between the superstitious religion of old and the new Christian faith until her service to Rome becomes too great a burden to bear, but she comes up with a clever solution to her problem. Her life eventually does come full circle and the ending may bring a mist to readers' eyes.
Priestess of Avalon makes the reader feel a part of the magical world it describes. The blending of historical fact and believable fiction make this a worthy successor to the other offerings in the Avalon series.
Hope that there will be more installments, because Avalon is too fascinating to disappear into the mists of time.