Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Priestess of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diana L. Paxson Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon was such an incredible book that when I found Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxson, I thought even if it was only half as good, it would be worth the read. Unfortunately, I overestimated it by about a factor of 100.::: Before There Was Camelot... :::While The Mists of Avalon takes place in medieval Britain, Priestess of Avalon is its ancestor, taking place in the time of the Roman Empire. Eilan is born to Rian, the Lady of Avalon, but Rian dies in childbirth. Rian's sister, Ganeda, succeeds Rian as Lady of Avalon, and banishes the child to go live with her father, as it is too painful to face her presence.Eilan is later sent back to Avalon by her father to train as a priestess, but Ganeda cannot forget that Eilan's birth caused her mother's death, and Eilan constantly feels her aunt's dislike, chafing at every direction. When one of Ganeda's grand-daughters dies, Ganeda punishes Eilan by forbidding her from seeing her other grand-daughter. Eilan is left with even less reason to trust Ganeda, and when Ganeda plans to send Aelia, a shy priestess, and Eilan's best friend, to the Beltane fires to be with a Roman, Constantius, Eilan recognizes him from a vision she'd had, and switches places with Eilan, and Ganeda bans her from Avalon.Eilan leaves with Constantius, and begins a new life she feels she has been destined for: bearing him a son who will change the Empire. In choosing this life and having Constantine, however, she realizes that her visions were incomplete. The changes that Constantine makes aren't choices that Eilan might have intended, and she has to make sacrifices to follow the path of destiny.::: Pale Imitation :::From what I could glean from the book jacket, this book was started before Marion Zimmer Bradley's death and then Paxson completed it on her own, which may account for some of its problems. Priestess of Avalon is a fictionalized view of what Roman Emperor Constatine's mother might have been like had she been trained on the mythical Isle of Avalon that Zimmer Bradley created, and the conceit is intriguing.However, at less than half the lenght of The Mists of Avalon, Priestess of Avalon suffers mightily. Trying to cover over 60 years of Eilan's life including all the changes in Emperor, political intrigue, battles, and characters would have taken AT LEAST as long a novel as The Mists of Avalon. At the point at which you need to include a three-page long list of characters at the front of the novel to help your reader keep them straight? You are dealing with far too large a cast in far too short a novel.Priestess of Avalon feels as if it is trying for the same overall feel of Mists, but never gets there. And the frequent allusions to the possibility that Joseph of Arimethea was a practitioner of the pagan "Mysteries" that are practiced on Avalon seemed forced, and lent even less time to figuring out who was who and doing what. And with no mention of events or people on Avalon after Eilan's departure, trying to pick that thread back up toward the end of the book makes the plot even more stilted.Priestess of Avalon could have been a fascinating book; a look at the Isle before the events that are more familiar to fans of Arthurian legend. However, it's readily apparent that Paxon was nowhere near prepared to step into Zimmer Bradley's shoes to complete this novel, and instead, Priestess of Avalon feels like a generic product you'd pick up at a close-out. Which, come to think of it, I did, since it was on the clearance table at the bookstore.This review previously published at Epinions:

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