Lady of Avalon is Marion Zimmer Bradley's latest
novel of Britain in the centuries before King Arthur. It consists
of three loosely linked novellas and serves as a bridge between
The Forest House (1993) and Bradley's acclaimed retelling
of the King Arthur legends, The Mists of Avalon (1983).
Other than setting the historical stage for the Arthurian
romances as told in Mists, Lady of Avalon has little
to do with the legends themselves. "The Wisewoman" for instance,
concerns the origins of the hidden isle of Avalon and the events
that isolated it from the rest of mortal Britan, while "The High
Priestess" is a random episode from Avalon's troubled history.
Only in the final story, "Daughter of Avalon," do familiar
characters appear: Arthur's mother, Igraine; the young Taliesin
before he becomes Merlin; and Viviane, who will later be known as
the Lady of the Lake.
Bradley hints at reincarnation, most especially of a spirit
born again and again to be the Defender of Britain. Lady of
Avalon is essentially the same story three times, and all
three foreshadow the cycle of Arthur's future success and
failures; to read the novellas one after the other is too
So: well-written, rich in the sense of the atmosphere and
history it attempts to evoke, but a generally unsatisfying
This review originally appeared in the November 30, 1997
edition of The Roanoke Times.
The Forest House. Viking, 1993
Lady of Avalon. Viking, 1997
The Mists of Avalon. Alfred A. Knopf, 1983
This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated January 17, 1999