The Forest House

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

-In THE FOREST HOUSE, the popular Bradley reveals her gift for richly detailed storytelling. This is the story of Eilan, a lovely native Briton. When she rescues the youth Gaius from a boar-trap and nurses him to health, they fall deeply in love. But he confides to Eilan that he is half- Roman, half-Briton, and they can never wed. After he leaves, Eilan’s home is destroyed by barbarian raiders. She goes to live with Druid priestesses at their mysterious sanctuary, the Forest House, and learns to serve the Goddess.

Years pass, and Eilan becomes a priestess; Gaius joins the Roman army. Neither can forget the other, but it is clear they must lead separate lives. Eilan takes a vow of chastity. Gaius is forced into a loveless marriage with a Roman girl. Nevertheless, Eilan meets Gaius at a fertility festival and becomes pregnant with his child. The priestesses, though outraged, allow her to bear her son, Gawen. Gaius meets the boy once, but he has no time to visit Gawen and his mother. As Gawen grows, Eilan becomes so absorbed in her faith that she rejects Gaius when he attempts a reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the Briton tribes rebel against the Romans, who are already having problems. The fall of Rome has begun, and in Britain, both sides of the conflict go out of control. The Forest House and its women become targets for drunken Roman soldiers. When Gaius tries to rescue Eilan and Gawen, he is captured by Druid priests, who decide to sacrifice him. This leads to an emotionally charged ending which sets the stage for Britain’s uncertain future. Bradley has clearly done her cultural research in writing THE FOREST HOUSE. The historically accurate settings, which could have dulled the plot, never detract from the credible characters in this appealing story. The book makes a fine companion piece for its predecessor, THE MISTS OF AVALON.