Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon
By Diana L. Paxson
Published 2007, Viking
Hardback, 394 pages
This prequel to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series tells of the crushing of Britain by the Romans and the retreat of the Druid high priestess to the Forest House. It follows the lives of two young women--Boudica, who becomes a fierce warrior who rallies the people in an attempt to expel the conquerors, and Lhiannon, who becomes the high priestess who preserves the Druidic traditions.After reading this book, I did a little research about the historical Boudica. For the most part, I would say that Paxson holds well to the historical record of Boudica while incorporating the mythology of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series. From the outset, I expected the battle that Boudica is famous for to occur within the first half of the book, but the whole thing actually leads up to it as the final climax.
The book progresses in typical Bradley fashion, following the lives of Boudica and Lhiannon as they intersect and divide, like two parallel lines on a page. The sub-plots build and taper off, dealing with the typical issues of romance, religion, and cultural differences. Lhiannon stays in her role as priestess, seemingly never allowed to realize her full potential, despite prophecy and ambition. Boudica leaves Mona to be wed to the powerful King Prasutagos in the midst of a Roman takeover. Despite the power that these two women are certain resides in Brittania, their people lack the organization and man-power of the Roman Empire. Defeat after defeat only gives them more reason to seek out peace.
Lhiannon's role seems to be that of victim, as she loses first in religious ambition, then in romantic ambition, and finally losing her best friend. Even so, I can't help feeling sorry for her and hoping that something will work out in her favor. The one thing that seems to go her way is when she adopts a girl, Caillean, whom the reader never actually gets to meet.
Boudica's role morphs as the plot progresses from wife, to mother, and finally to Queen. For me, the most moving sub-plot was Boudica's miscarriage - I cried. This also involved the only "loose end" that really bugged me - the Morrigan addressing her lost son without really giving her an answer. Despite that, what drove her to become the great Queen that she is most known for is her love for her children and her anger at their treatment by the Romans. The way that she responded to these kinds of injustices are what humanized her and made her choices relateable. In the end, it was obvious that though she knew she had no room for regret in her choices, she likely wondered if there was truly any way that the peoples of Britannia could have defeated the Romans.
Though this book did take a long time for me to read, I still felt that it stayed true to the writing style of the late Bradley and was an appreciated addition to the Avalon series.
The Cover: The cover features the two main female leads that the plot centers around, Boudica and Lhiannon, with the backdrop of the famed battle that the whole book leads up to. This is definitely a well-planned cover.
First Line: "At Samhain, we open our doors to the spirits of those who are gone."
This opening brings me back into the world of Avalon that I am already so familiar with.
Favorite Quote: "But once, a woman stood against the might of Rome, and for one shining, terrible summer, had the victory."
Read For: Off The Shelf Challenge, Strong Heroine Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge