Lady of Avalon

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Viking. $24.95
(trade $15.95)

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 much.

So: well-written, rich in the sense of the atmosphere and history it attempts to evoke, but a generally unsatisfying book.


This review originally appeared in the November 30, 1997 edition of The Roanoke Times.


Bradley's Avalon:

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

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