Books by Diana L. Paxson

DIANA PAXSON has spent the last decade and more writing pseudonymously as Marion Zimmer Bradley or "in collaboration with" Marion Zimmer Bradley. She had full author credit on the last one, Ancestors of Avalon, which made the NYT extended list. Paxson is

Released: Feb. 7, 2006

"Should please Westria loyalists. Others will find it clogged with recycled Native-American folklore and beliefs, syrupy with New Age folderol and seeming hundreds of pages longer than it should be."
After dallying with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon (2004), Paxson returns to her longstanding series about a post-apocalyptic/alternate-world California (The Jewel of Fire, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: June 21, 2004

" For die-hard fans."
Another prequel to Bradley's bestselling feminist take on Arthurian legend. Read full book review >
PRIESTESS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Released: May 1, 2001

"A guilty pleasure for ancient-history buffs, and a sure hit for the goddess crowd. "
King Arthur goes New Age in the latest offering from Bradley (Traitor's Son, 1998, etc.), who has made a career of smoothing down the sharp corners of the Round Table for her matriarchal fans. Princess Eilan (that's "Helena" to you Eurocentric patriarchs) hails from the misty isle of Avalon, where she became adept in the ancient craft and lore of the wisewomen. In love with the Roman general Constantius, she leaves Britain and elopes with him—only to be cast aside when he becomes Caesar and is forced to marry the Roman patrician Theodora. In her grief she makes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she discovers the True Cross and learns of the new religion of Christianity. Eventually, her son Constantine succeeds his father as Caesar, and Helena helps him bridge the pagan and the Christian eras—changing Western history in the process. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1993

Paxson has carved out her niche in fantasy with recastings of Tristan and Isolde in The White Raven (1988), and King Lear in The Serpent's Tooth (1991). Now, with an assist from Martine- Barnes, she launches a three-volume retelling of the legend of Fionn mac Cumhall (Finn MacCool)—a retelling that, unfortunately, starts out looking like the mustiest sort of generic fantasy, with a long list of Irish character and place names in dauntingly authentic spelling, and a foreword with a list of suggested reading. But then the story of the hero's youth kicks into gear, and the book comes to life wonderfully. We see Fionn as an orphan and an exile in the forest, raised by the druidess Bobdmall and the warrior woman Liath Luachra. He travels to the king's fair, making both friends and enemies while he beats all comers at running and spear-throwing; he visits the Sidhe, has visions, slays monsters; he is a servant to noble lords and apprentice to a blacksmith, then a poet. In the end, Fionn comes to accept both his identity and his destiny. Overall, an unusually good Celtic fantasy: it's sometimes prone to bathos—Fionn often pauses in the midst of dramatic events to ponder some mundane question—but the high points of the story sing, and leave the reader with an appetite for the volumes to follow. Read full book review >
Released: April 27, 1993

Another Paxson rattle and roll of a cluster of ancient tales and myths. Here, in the first of a trilogy, the author spotlights a heroic pair given fame by Wagner's operatic Ring cycle: Sigfrid and Brunahild of the Walkyriun, who—like Tristan and Iseult of The White Raven (1988) and King Leir of The Serpent's Tooth (1991)— step out of the mythic mists with earthbound feet and overheated crania. After an essential Foreword, in which Paxson sketches a fifth- century background of a crumbling Roman empire amid the roiling movement of Germanic tribes, there's an eye-crossing roll call of characters (from the one-eyed god Wodan to Fafner, ``a berserker''), plus a Prologue and a view of the theft of the Gold from the river Rhenus. (The jury is still out on the joys of authentic spelling.) The young girl Brunahild, daughter of a Hun prince, will first see the image of Wodan as, with Gudrun, offspring of a Bergund chieftain, she peers into a sacred well. (Wodan will appear at other times and places.) So it's off to the Walkyriun for Brunahild, to be trained with the other women to defend the old ways and old gods. The storms through which they ride in battle are within—as is Brunahild's quest for her father, surely the One-Eyed. Meanwhile, Sigfrid is being raised by the smith Ragan to avenge a death by slaying the shapechanger Fafner, guardian of the Rhenus gold. He'll run with wolves, learn killing, receive his father's sword, etc. Then at the stony cold ``pyre'' on which Brunahild lies (punished by her peers for sparing an enemy), the two will thunderously lose their respective virginities. There are those who regret the leach of old gold out of old myths, but Paxson substitutes the happy clamor of invention—how can one kill a dragon that isn't there?—with ease and in a wink of Wodan's eye. Read full book review >
THE SERPENT'S TOOTH by Diana L. Paxson
Released: July 16, 1991

Retreading ancient legend for the modern British mytho- fantasy fiction devotee is Paxson's specialty (e.g., The White Raven, 1988, a return to the saga of Tristan and Iseult); this time out, she's tracking down the Lear story, first amid dusty tomes like Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of England, and then in her own busy imagination. It's around the fifth century B.C. when Paxson kicks things off, with the Celts (here, the Quiritani) recently arrived in Britain, subduing the land under the leadership of King Leir. Leir manages this feat, despite continued resistance from weird pockets of recalcitrants like the Old Race and the Painted People, largely by getting children off local queens—exclusively women-children, three in number: beautiful Rigana, Gunarduilla the warrior-woman, and little Cridilla, who loves Leir dearly, and is Paxson's heroine. After an enlightening stint on the Misty Isle with She-Bear, who trains Cridilla in the ways of war, and some bizarre coming-of-age rites at the Womb Cave, Cridilla sticks by her father as his ragtag kingdom begins to unravel. She also gets pregnant by a princeling from the Great Land, or Europe. This is all interesting enough, but about halfway through, when Leir exiles Cridilla for telling him the truth about the nature of her love for him, Paxson reclines back into the ever-beguiling Shakespearean version of the legend, leaving few surprises in store. Rigana and Gunarduilla turn on the old man, rebellion erupts, and Cridilla returns—though Paxson serves up a happy ending, leaving her to live and rule. It's all just a little too familiar and rehearsed, with multitudinous settings that pass by in a fog. Perhaps, then, a reasonable selection for the Marion Zimmer Bradley crew, but by no means a standout. Read full book review >