THE FOREST HOUSE (AVALON #2) by Marion Zimmer Bradley & Diana L. Paxson

It is around 86 CE. Eilan, a 14-year-old grand-daughter of Ardanos, the Arch-Druid of Britannia, can already see visions and hears the call of the Goddess. All might have gone smoothly with her initiation into the Priestesses of the Forest House, had the Chief Priestess Lhiannon not mistakenly thrown her cloak over her close friend Dieda, thus claiming Dieda as a priestess for the Forest House, instead of Eilan.

Dieda is the youngest daughter of Eilan’s grandfather Ardanos, but she is a similar age to Eilan (perhaps 15 or 16) and looks uncannily like her. Thus the two girls are often confused, one with another, causing a critical plot-twist to this novel.  But Dieda doesn’t have visions, nor does she seem particularly drawn to the Forest House. Instead she considers herself to be betrothed to a young man named Cynric. It is thus a tragedy for her when Lhiannon inadvertently claims her for the priestesshood, rather than Eilan

It is near the fires of Beltane (30 April in our calendar) when this community discovers a boy injured in a boar pit. They take him in and heal his injuries, most not realizing that he is in fact Roman (except for Ardanos.)  But he is of mixed blood. His mother was British and called him Gawen. His father is Gaius Macellius Severus, a Roman Army Officer. His Roman name is Gaius Macellius Severus Siluricus, to honor the fact that his mother came from the tribe of the Silures.

Unfortunately, Gaius and Eilan fall in love and their love and the dire consequences of their coming together to fashion a son, named Gawen after his father, leads to the magnificent and tragic climax of this novel.

Although this novel appears to have nothing to do with THE MISTS OF AVALON, it is well worth reading, if only to get some wonderful descriptions of the rites and customs of the Druids, before they lost their power. Five Stars.