Lady of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Buy *Lady of Avalon* by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Lady of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
480 pages
December 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Lady of Avalon follows on from The Forest House, and its initial main characters - Caillean (now High Priestess) and Gawen (son of Eilan and Gaius Mecallius) - were important figures in that book two. With the other main site of the way of the priestesses and druids destroyed, Avalon stands alone as a beacon to the British people.

The story of the first third of this book focuses largely on Gawenís legacy, his struggle between the two heritages he inherited Ė British and Roman Ė and the eventual removal of Avalon from the normal world in order to maintain its safety. Caillean struggles with the demands, expectations, authority and restrictions that come with her new position; Gawen falls in love with Sianna, daughter of the Fairy Queen, returns to his Roman roots and into the army, but eventually is forced to flee back to Avalon; the Christian population on the island live peacefully with the druids and priestesses, until the old ruler dies and a less tolerant one arises...

A lot of strong story threads wind through the first part of the book, and both Gawen and Caillean are complex, believable and interesting characters who engage the readerís sympathy. The internal and external battles for the dwellers of Avalon are compelling, the rituals surreal but fascinating. The trouble is, once the story really starts to get truly riveting, the main characters change. A theme of reincarnation runs through the book, and of repeated sacrifice for the sake of the land, but unfortunately this means that the story in the second and third sections of the book tends to be too predictable.

Some strong characters emerge in these second and third sections, most notably Carausius in the second part and Viviane and Taliesin in the third. Itís also interesting to see how some of the characters from Priestess of Avalon have their stories expanded here. The repeating storyline, though, just isnít strong enough to sustain the narrative flow, and it feels quite disjointed.

All sections of the book feature some excellent scenes, and Part III largely recovers the pace near the end. The action tends to slow down too often, though, without interesting-enough characters to maintain a strong interest. Perhaps not all readers will feel the same, but some sections seemed determinedly anti-male and anti-Christian Ė neither of which exactly endeared the book to me, though usually they were relatively well portrayed as being the (sometimes understandable) attitudes of the characters in the book. Additionally, the prose gets needlessly elaborate, with many a flowery poetic image to describe things.

Lady of Avalon is a strange book; parts of it I really enjoyed, others I had to force myself to keep reading. Overall itís a good read - itís just that a few parts let it down badly. Better than The Forest House, not as good as Priestess of Avalon; I give it a rating of 4/5, with the feeling that this rating is perhaps just a tad generous.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Dave Seaman, 2010

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