Title: The Forest House
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Source: Personal library
Challenges: Read 'n' Review challenge
First Sentence: "A cold wind was whipping the torches into fiery tails."
Summary (From back of book):
She was Eilan, the daughter of a Druidic warleader and gifted with visions. In a land struggling to survive both Roman conquerors and her own people's enemies, surely fate had marked her to become a priestess of the Forest House.
But first Eilan had chosen a different, forbidden path -- to love Gaius, a soldier of mixed blood among the legions sent to subdue her country. And so, she must hide a terrible secret when she is anointed as the new High Priestess. With mighty enemies poised to usurp the wealth of magic the Forest House sheltered, Eilan could only trust in the power of the great Goddess to find her destiny amidst the treacherous labyrinth in which fate had placed her..."
My Two Cents:
I read The Mists of Avalon a few years ago and loved it. I have always had a fascination with Arthurian legends, not helped at all by my love of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I thought that Mists was very imaginative and I made a lot of sense as a re-imagining of Arthurian legend. When I finished that book, I picked up two of the other books in the series, thinking they'd be just as great.
Too bad I was so sorely disappointed by The Forest House that I don't know if I even want to make the time to read The Lady of Avalon.
The book started off well enough, with Eilan and her aunt Dieda finding Roman soldier Gaius in a boar pit. Gaius is half-British, so he is able to speak and look British enough to pass in the household of Bendeigid without raising suspicions. I thought Eilan was sweet and nurturing, and worthy of the love that Gaius gains for her. Gaius, even, seemed a nice character whose deception of the family was warranted because he was injured. I liked them.
But then, everything kind of fell apart.
I can't really put a finger on when it all went south, but I just stopped liking and even caring about Eilan and Gaius. Sure, people change as they grow older and gain more responsibility, but they both changed so dramatically it was difficult for me to even identify them as the young people I liked so much earlier in the book. Eilan becomes very aloof and cold, partially because she has to remain aloof as High Priestess, but she just doesn't seem to care about anyone around her. Gaius becomes just an awful person -- He uses his Roman wife as a baby machine until he discovers she cannot have anymore children (Leaving him without a male heir), and then he dumps her. He doesn't care about his daughters. He sleeps around with slaves and concubines, and propositions one of the young women living at the Forest House.
I just did not like them at all by the end of the book, so I didn't care what happened to them.
The only character I did like throughout the novel was Caillean, one of the priestesses at the Forest House. She showed the right amount of sympathy and love to those around her, often giving Eilan more respect and love than I felt she deserved. I felt she was much more well-rounded than the "main" characters, perhaps because Bradley was setting her up as the central character for The Lady of Avalon.
The only thing I liked about this book was Bradley's writing. It flows well and is very evocative.