Linda's Reviews > Priestess of Avalon

Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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's review
Nov 05, 07

bookshelves: fantasy, fiction
Read in February, 2007

Though I enjoyed this, it was probably my least favorite of the Avalon books. That's probably because except for Mists of Avalon, originally read years ago, I've read the subsequent books fairly recently and with relatively little time between them. When you read them so closely they start to look formulaic.

This book concerns Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. Bradley and Paxson fill in the blanks in Helena's life starting with the idea that she was born in Britain and was a Priestess of Avalon. Unlike the other books, this one ventures far and wide covering the width of the Roman empire and roughly eighty years of (speculative) history. This is an interesting time historically because Christianity goes from being a persecuted cult to the state religion of Rome.

In the timeline of the other books, this takes place before the second section of Lady of Avalon and ends somewhat after that section but well before the third section.

It's interesting to see how the authors try to build a world view where the claims to correctness of multiple religions can be right. It's a tough assertion to make and still be able to tell a story that holds together. Within the Avalon books, the most overt supernatural manifestations occur to or via the efforts of Avalon's priestesses. These priestesses believe they are right because their magic works. That has to be a compelling aid to a religion. They also claim to believe that the teaching of many other religions are correct, or at least have some fundamental truth and that all religions are just a different facet of the same gem.

In any event, Bradley and Paxson's accounts of 4th century life in the Roman empire are interesting and Helena's fictionalized life is certainly interesting. She was in a place to witness and to a degree shape events that continue to affect our world to this day. Why did Constantine become a Christian? How did the fragmented Church achieve some degree of unity?

Though the book isn't without flaws, it's worth reading if you are a fan of the Avalon books. Just don't read them all in a row.
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