Eilan, the daughter of a Druidic warleader, is gifted with visionary powers that cause her to be named a High Priestess at the Forest House, but she is unable to resist her forbidden love for the soldier Gaius. Reprint.
The story is set in the days of Roman occupation of Britain. Gaius, a young Roman officer and son of the local Roman commandant with his British wife has met and fallen in love with Eilan, the daughter of a powerful Druid family. Neither family approves of the match and forces the two apart. For the rest of their lives they met again and again only to be torn apart. Ultimately their unfulfilled love sets the stage for the events in MISTS OF AVALON.
The story is again told, at least in part, from a feminine point of view. As in MISTS there is a greek tragedy feel of unescapable doom. The characters are engaging and 'feel real', the plot is compeling making this a book that is hard to put down. It does not quite live up to MISTS due at least in part, to its more simplistic story line. Unlike MISTS' numerous story lines THE FOREST HOUSE focuses on Eilan and Gaius with Caillean, a priestess of the Forest House filling in gaps. This prequel is also significantly shorter. Still for any fan of MISTS OF AVALON this is a must read and would be enjoyable on its own as well.
I also recommend reading one of Zimmer Bradley's early novels, THE FALL OF ATLANTIS, which was recently put back into print by Baen Books. THE FOREST HOUSE alludes to Atlantean culture as an ancient source for Druidism, and if you've read THE FALL OF ATLANTIS, you'll pick up on some of that. It's cool to see how Zimmer Bradley's books fit together, even if they were written thirty years apart.
Eilan, the daughter of a Druidic warrior and granddaughter of Ardanos, Arch-Druid of Britannia, is gifted with the "sight" and has longed to serve the Goddess as a healer-priestess in the Forest House. She meets and falls in love with Gauis, a half Roman-half British youth, and son of the Roman Prefect Macellius Severus, second-in-command in Britainnia. They want to marry but are forbidden. Heartbroken, Eilan fulfills her original wish and dedicates herself to the Lady. Ms. Bradley blends a fascinating story with accurate research to give the reader a good picture of early Britain and the various political, cultural and religious factions, both local and Roman, which vied for power there.
Bradley's narrative is clear and her plot is believable, as are her characters. I prefer "The Mists of Avalon," not just because of the subject matter, but because the plot and characters are more complex. However, this is a solid novel with a sound plot and worth the read.