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Priestess of Avalon    by Marion Zimmer Bradley & Diana L. Paxson order for
Priestess of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

The Priestess of Avalon is the story of Helena, mother of Constantine, who fought and killed his way to become Emperor. By making Christianity the religion of the state, giving it a hierarchical organisation, and enforcing its dogma inflexibly by blood and fire, he set the world on a course from which, sadly, it has never recovered.

Helena, in the story, is the romanized name of the British princess, Eilan. She is raised as a priestess in the otherworldly groves of Avalon, the centre of worship of the Goddess in Britain at Inis Witrin. Helena abandons her priesthood to go from Avalon with a highborn Roman soldier, Constantius, to whom she has been given in visions by the Goddess. Later she bears his son Constantine. Constantius rises ever higher until he is forced to give Helena up and marry into the Imperial family so that he can become Caesar.

The story of Helena and her part in the rise and final supremacy of Constantine make a fascinating story; the mythical aspects of Eilan's priesthood could have blended into the history as an ironic counterpart to the triumph of the Christian Church. Unfortunately that aspect of the story is not well written and Helena's mystical, pseudo-religious musings take up far too much space. Interesting but ultimately disappointing.

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