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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2014
I was so pleased to find a title by Marion Zimmer Bradley that I haven't yet read. And so it was a lovely surprise when the package arrived early and the book was in such great quality.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves entirely authentic-sounding fantasy! Marion Zimmer Bradley's writing style is extremely beautiful and her historical context is impeccable, making her writing entirely convincing. A beautiful moving book for all ages.
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on 3 May 2016
nice
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on 25 November 2013
I've written this review in case like me you have read Mists of Avalon (MOA), want to read more of Marion Zimmer Bradley but fear her other books won't live up to the same standard. Priestess of Avalon does not have the same depth of complex plot, twists and turns as MOA but in my eyes is at no disadvantage because of it. What I wanted from this book was the same breadth of wonderful characters and to be immersed in their world of inner-dialogue with the Divine; to me at least MOA was magical because of each person's connection and communion with the Mystery rather than its plot and how it weaved its spirituallity into the island I live and I am glad to say that the Priestess of Avalon is equally powerful, equally magical.

Yes, this book takes you away from Britain and there are times when I skimmed a little quickly over the description of Roman cities but in the end we see the Goddess and her different guises everywhere. From following the tale of a single character throughout, we grow to love Eilan and those she loves. Forget Mists of Avalon for a moment and read this as it deserves to be read; on its own and in its own light, for that light is beautiful.
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on 29 November 2000
Let's get is straight - if you've read the other Marion Zimmer Bradley books in the Avalon series, and you're dying for a "fix", you won't be disappointed with this one. Published posthumously with the collaboration of Diane Paxson, the story of Eilan is a well-written tale with a timeline that interweaves seamlessly with "Lady of Avalon", and shares many of the same characters.
For the first time in the Avalon series, life outside Britannia is explored, as Eilan becomes "Helena" and takes her place in Roman society alongside her husband, Constantius. The descriptions of faraway places are evocative and the reader is aided by a series of maps and translated place-names in the introduction to the book.
There were only two small issues which struck me initially; firstly that the book is written in the first person, while no others of the Avalon series are written this way, and secondly, that in a very early part of the book there are a couple of spelling and "continuity" errors. However, these are small things and will probably be ironed out in later editions.
I would highly recommend this book to Marion Zimmer Bradley fans, and congratulate Diane Paxson on her contribution to the work. I have read and re-read the other Avalon books until they were in tatters, and it seems I am destined to do the same with this one!!!
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on 2 December 2012
Well written and exciting. 20 years after the slaughter of the Druids on Ynys Mon (Anglesey) this covers the events that follow and shape Britain. As a Modern Druid working closely with the modern re-enactor Romans in Chester I found the content of this book very close to my heart. The story flows seamlessly and is gripping all the way. Her knowledge and re creation of the Romano British world and way of life is a joy.
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on 28 December 2001
Thís fourth "Avalon" novel tells the life story of Eilan, a Priestess of Avalon, who becomes the wife/concubine of the Roman soldier Constantius Chlorus and mother of the legendary Emperor Constantine the Great, who later will be worshipped as a Christian saint. Known as Helena to the Romans, Eilan has to leave the isle of Avalon, because she wants to follow her heart. Her way leads her to Roman Germania, Rome and eventually the Holy Land. But her true home is elsewhere. Bradley's novel is a careful reimagination of a historical character that sometimes captures the reader with its atmospheric descriptions and lush storytelling. Written from Helena's first person point-of-view, Bradley adds another chapter to her popular series of pre-Arthurian historicals. Most of the time it is an entertaining read, but really too much happens off-stage or is simple recounted in dry sentences. Helena's story would have had the potential to rival THE MISTS OF AVALON, and it would have demanded a truly epic treatment. There are far too many time jumps and too much is left out. I think this novel could easily have been twice as long. Overall, this is a good book for MZB/Avalon fans, but not for people who have yet to encounter the magic of Marion Zimmer Bradley. And although Bradley died in 1999, there will be yet another novel in this series linking her Atlantis novel THE FALL OF ATLANTIS with her Avalon books...
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This is the life history of Helena (Elian), concubine to Constantius Chlorus and mother of Constantine the Great, as she grows from Avalon initiate to priestess to Avalon outcast, entering the realm of known history as wife and mother to two Caesars in the waning days of the Roman empire. This story has only a little of the fantasy elements of Mists of Avalon, and doesn't detail all the gory politics and wars of Rome of that period, but is rather a very personal look at this period of history, showing how her own personal thoughts, desires, and beliefs helped mold the political world of day, and the world event's effects on her.

The major portion of this still deals with one of the main themes of Mists: the conflict between the burgeoning Christian religion and the older 'pagan' ones, both Roman and British. Helena herself finds a synthesis, that there is one 'Great Being', that humans, in their limitations, cannot fully see, and therefore worship many aspects of this being, all valid in their own way.

Helen is well drawn; it is easy to become emotionally attached to her hopes and fears. The rest of the characters are not as fully realized, but still far more than cardboard. The strident feminism that marks much of Bradley's later works is very quiet here, only appearing in short thoughts and asides. But I think that if the reader does not have at least a passing knowledge of this period in history, some of the thematic power of this story will be missed. Things like the Council of Nicaea are treated as an offstage happening, as are many other events. This lends a certain distancing effect upon the reader; Helena's world seems not quite connected to the world at large. Some more direct exposition of some of these events would have helped this novel. Also, place names are consistently given in their Latin version. While a cross reference is provided, I think this was a poor decision; the modern Anglicized names would have provided more immediacy to the work.

Still, a reasonably strong work, not as powerful as Mists, but an interesting prelude to the situation that Mists starts from, and providing a very different look at an important historical person that few people are even aware of.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 6 July 2001
This book is the proof that the theme of Avalon is evolving and charming. Unfortunatelly Marion is no longer with us to continue this exploration, I drank Mists of Avalon, I re-read several times the Lady of Avalon and its followers and now I read this last: Priestess of Avalon. I want more, don't you?
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on 11 November 2013
Yes, enjoyed this very much. Quite interesting to learn about aspects of history at the same time. though i preferred the earlier books.
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on 29 April 2013
Despite this book being written last and having some of it written after the death of Marion Zimmer Bradley, the story flows along as well as the others and you are not conscious of where the other writer took over. That she had been the researcher working with Bradley helped with this because she had all the knowledge of how Bradley worked in front of her.
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