"With Red-Robed Priestess, Cunningham, a storyteller as crafty as J.K. Rowling, ends the Maeve Chronicles befittingly and beautifully, with a fourth novel as fully fruited as the first."—Publisher's Weekly
In this final installment of The Maeve Chronicles, Maeve (the Celtic Mary Magdalen) returns to the British Isles to seek her firstborn daughter, taken from her by the druids more than forty years ago.
Elizabeth Cunningham is the direct descendant of nine generations of Episcopal priests. She grew up hearing rich (sometimes terrifying) liturgical and biblical language. She is the author of seven novels and three collections of poetry.
About the Author
Best know for her pagan novels, The Return of the Goddess and The Wild Mother, (Station Hill), Elizabeth Cunningham is the direct descendant of nine generations of Episcopal priests. She was ordained as an interfaith minister in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She balances writing with a counseling practice.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As the fourth novel of the Maeve Chronicles, Red-Robed Priestess brings the great circle of the life of Maeve Rhuad, the Celtic Magdalen, to its conclusion. Although we can read each novel independently, it's good to read them all and get the story first-hand, from Maeve's childhood as the daughter of eight Celtic witch mothers on Tir na mBan, the Isle of Women. Though her mothers say her father was a sea-god, she learns when she is sent to druid school on the island of Mona that he was actually a druid. On Mona, the Holy Isle, Maeve meets a young foreign student, Essus. They fall in love. When her druid father makes plans to sacrifice Essus, Maeve comes to his rescue and helps him escape. For her pains, she is tried and sentenced to be sent beyond the ninth wave. Oh, and her father rapes her. Their daughter is sent to be fostered among the Iceni, Maeve survives the sea voyage, and in the next two novels she becomes a slave and then a whore in Rome. Maeve then moves to the Roman colony of Judea, where she is reunited with Essus-Jesus-and, as told in the Bible, she is present at his crucifixion and resurrection, where they experience a transfiguration of their own. Maeve has further adventures with the early Christians and, as Christian legend tells us, lives for awhile with Sarah, her daughter by Jesus, in the south of France. In Red-Robed Priestess, Maeve is an old woman. Along with Sarah and two of her friends, she rides north across France. She is going home. She is going to meet her elder daughter. And she's carrying all this emotional baggage. Gazing out across the English Channel one night, she meets a Roman general. They make love. The Roman general is Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, who is also headed for Pretannia (Britain). This is a finely researched novel, and though Maeve travels back and forth across pre-Roman Britain from Mona to Avalon (present-day Glastonbury) to the Iceni lands north of London, history has to have its way. There are meetings of the combrogos, the druids, the armies, and there is the horrific historical battle in which Boudica is finally defeated. As Maeve's tale ends, she is standing beside the golden river that divides the worlds of life and death. "Then I see him," Maeve tells us, "walking through a field, flinging seeds into the sky, letting them fall where they will, among stones and thorns, onto soft earth, into cracks of the sky, the cracks of parched lips. Slowly I get to my feet...He is waiting for me there. His hand is open. The way is open." (pg. 293). And she steps into the river. Quill says: This book will own your life while you're reading it and even after you finish the last page.
She is in the twilight of her year but Mary "Maeve the Celtic" Magdalene has much to accomplish in what is left of her life. In her sixties, she still attracts lovers like the newly appointed Governor of Britain General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus who looks somewhat like Jesus. In Gaul, they make love, but Maeve knows that their relationship can go nowhere because of his official position. When she crosses the Channel with Jesus' daughter Sarah, he is right behind her to get to the fort and take control of the soldiers. Heeding Sarah's blandishment, Maeve seeks out her first born, taken from her by the druid who raped her four decades ago. On her quest, she returns to where she was exiled forty years ago. The druids inform Maeve that her offspring is Boudica, adopted by the Iceni and their Queen. She leads the revolt against theRoman forces. In retaliation to her revolt, Paulinus' troops rape and batter her children. The Praetor and Maeve make love for the last time as the lines are drawn and Maeve readies herself for the tragedy to come The final Maeve Chronicles is a superb tale that can stand alone as a magnificent biblical historical fiction story, but is enhanced with the previous entries in the life of Mary Magdalen (see Magdalen Rising: The Beginning, Bright Dark Madonna and The Passion of Mary Magdalen). The story line combines mysticism, biblical references and historical accounts to anchor the strong climax in time and place as Mary returns to her Maeve and her Celtic roots. Readers will relish her end of her mortal days as she is pulled by her attraction to the General, her desire to protect her warrior daughter and her need to spread the word with Sarah at her side, not to mention knowing she will soon be with her beloved Jesus. Harriet Klausner