Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxton

I followed the book series because I loved Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I've read The Forest House and Lady of Avalon. I loved her writing style and I loved the time period (Roman/Celtic) and I loved how it was very female centered. Her books told the stories of women and even though it is in the fantasy genre, their relationships are dynamic. They love each other, they hate each other; they are sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and enemies. Basically, she writes real women… you think would be more common in story telling.

When I picked up Priestess of Avalon, I knew that Marion passed away during the writing of this book and her assistant, Diana L. Paxton took over writing the series. I read other reviews where other readers LOVED it or other HATED it.

And I have to say…

I didn’t LOVE it, but I didn’t HATE it, either.

It preludes Lady of Avalon, but crosses over and sort of ends right as Lady of Avalon picks up. Which… ok, I’m neither here nor there on the references. I admire that Paxton tried to keep the story chronically accurate. However, when Lady of Avalon characters were mentioned, it took me a moment to remember who it was and what was going on during that time. It would have been easier if Paxton and Bradley reminded the reader who the character was… which leads me to my next point.

This was the first book told entirely in 1st person point of view. Bradley’s other books were 3rd person, and gave the Bradley a chance to dive into the lore and the magic behind Roman Britannica. The reader learned how other characters thought of each other, which is what is missing from 1st person. I only knew how the main character, Eilan/Helena, felt about those she encountered. I was interested in how the people felt about her. 

I’m not sure if 1st person is what made Paxton’s writing felt flat but I thought she attempted to match Bradley’s writing style. Like I said, the lore was accurate, even though Paxton followed one woman’s journey through life instead of focusing it on the Priestesses of Avalon.

Because the story follows Helena, the focus shifted away from the magic of Avalon and addresses Christianity. This is nothing knew since Mists addresses this topic. Throughout the book, Helena struggles with Christianity and The Mysteries, and I liked how she doesn’t choose just one faith—she integrates both of them.

What was different about this book as well is the focus of Helena’s son, Constantine of Rome. Yes, that Constantine. Yay for history, but one of the reasons I was always drawn to Bradley’s Avalon series was that it was so focused on women. Yes, there are many men in the books, but they never felt like they dominated the story. I felt that with this book, Constantius and Constantine just dominated the story. It was all about how them and how Helena was at the mercy of men.

Finally, the length of the book was a bit long and I felt it was long to read. I didn’t feel the need to pick it up night after night. I didn’t wonder what was going to happen. It was just a story I was reading, which was very different than the sensation from Bradley’s other books. I thought it was a 50 pages too long.

Overall? I won’t be reading Paxton’s other novels in the series. I would give this book 2 and ½ books out of 5 books.