Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1983) remains one of the best lovedand bestsellingreworkings of the Arthurian cycle. Now Bradley has written a splendid prequel (which she also links to her novel The Forest House), in which she traces the High Priestess of Avalon and the sacrificial Sacred King through three cycles of reincarnation and mythic destiny. In the first century of Christianity, Lady Caillean raises her orphaned grandson, Gawen (whose mother was killed in The Forest House). Initiated as the Pendragon and Sacred King, Gawen dies, but has fathered a child by Sianna, a daughter of the Fairy Queen. After his death, Lady Callean transports Avalon to a separate magical reality. Sianna's descendants continue to shape the history of Britannia, however. Lady Dierna marries her daughter Taleri to Carausius, who becomes Emperor of Britannia and dies defending the land. A later descendant, Lady Ana, calls back to Avalon her daughter Viviane, who is united with Vortimer, her era's Defender of Britannia. But it is Lady Ana's child Igraine, whom Viviane raises, who will culiminate the bloodlines. A pillar of the fantasy field, Bradley here combines romance, rich historical detail, magical dazzlements, grand adventure and feminist sentiments into the kind of novel her fans have been yearning for.
VOYA - Margaret Miles
Bradley closes the gap between The Forest House (Viking, 1994) and The Mists of Avalon (Knopf, 1982) with the stories of three High Priestesses of the hidden Isle of Avalon. Around the beginning of the second century A.D., Caillean's foster son Gawen, as Pendragon, sacrifices himself to accomplish Avalon's separation from the world. Toward the end of the third century, Dierna's hope to preserve Britain by supporting Carausius as independent Emperor of Britannia ends in his death as sacrificial king. In the mid-fifth century, discontented Viviane comes to terms with her position, first as daughter of the High Priestess and then as Lady of Avalon herself, in the days just before the time of Arthur. Unlike Bradley's major science fiction corpus of Darkover novels (most recently The Shadow Matrix [DAW, 1997]), which has grown over the years into an imagined world greater than the sum of its individual parts, her feminist-Arthurian world arrived fully fledged in The Mists of Avalon; satellite novels attached to such a monumental and groundbreaking work inevitably suffer in comparison, and even backhandedly lessen the impact of the central novel. Taken on its own (though anyone who has read Mists will find this impossible), Lady of Avalon is solid feminist historical fiction, exploring the traditions of Goddess worship. Historical and metaphysical aspects are well handled; characterization suffers somewhat, perhaps because the book is really three linked novellas about different characters instead of one continuous novel. Readers who enjoy feminist history and historical novels are those most likely to enjoy this. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
This three-part fantasy, set in Roman-occupied Britain, creates the link between The Forest House and The Mists of Avalon and should satisfy fans of both those books. Spanning almost 400 years, it tells the stories of the high priestesses and ladies of Avalon. Recommended for fantasy collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/97.]
This smoky mix of magic, legend, people both mythic and real, and the ancient savageries of war supplies a chronological link between Bradley's The Forest House (1994), set in first-century Britain, and her Arthurian saga, The Mists of Avalon (1983).
Here, again, is Avalon, seat of the Goddess Mother religion, its artifacts crafted by those Old Ones from Atlantis. This time, the High Priestesses, hounded by male-dominated Christianity, wrestle with their powers as they see visions and seek out incarnations of the Sacred King who will save Brittania. The boy Gawen (introduced in The Forest House) will be raised in Avalon by the High Priestess Cailleanit is she who magically separates Avalon from the world outsidesaluted as the true "Son of a Hundred Kings," be given a miraculous sword, and ritually unite with his beloved Sianna (none other than the daughter of the Faerie Queen). Gawen is killed by Romans but will appear again in other incarnations to fulfill his destiny as Defender of Brittania. The next Incarnationthe future Emperor of Brittania, Carausiusis discovered by the High Priestess Dierna, who should be his Queen/Bride but mistakenly arranges a marriage for him with one who would help in his defeat. Vortimer, son of the High King, is the third to swear to save Brittania's ancient ways and freedom. There are flights and pursuits, carnage on land and sea, sacred artifacts (cup, lance, etc., later to be Christian symbols), shuddering visions, and plenty of travel between real and magical worlds.
A treat for the savvy initiate, and intriguing for Arthurian buffs, but others may find it too cloudy by half. Go with the flow, though: The prose is as smooth as those sacred stones on which so many interesting things take place. Bradley also includes helpful lists of people and places and a map.
From the Publisher
"Bradley here combines romance, rich historical detail, magical dazzlements, grand adventure and feminist sentiments into the kind of novel her fans have been yearning for." Publishers Weekly Starred Review