This is the last published book in the Avalon series, although it’s not the last in the series timeline, which is not in any way linear. If you want to go via the series timeline you’ll be reading completely out of publication order. This one falls somewhat near the beginning–probably the second, maybe the third, in the timeline of the series.
Basically, these books are about the British Isles in and around the time of the Arthur legend, focused on the priestesses and druids of the early pagan religion in that area.
I appreciate the female-centric viewpoint and I really appreciate the control that the women have over their lives and the control they have over their countries and homes.
But these processes are very primitive in their own way. In this book, we see the beginning of the super creepy kingship ritual that we see the priestesses of Avalon use later in the timeline. This involves the prospective king fasting and drugging himself and then killing a massive stag with his bare hands and then sleeping with a virginal priestess.
This book also shows the moment when the control of the country started shifting from queens to kings, which is a bit bittersweet for a series that is so centered on female power.
In this book, we follow the journey of the queen’s son after his family is slaughtered as the priestesses of Avalon hide him and raise him to be part warrior and part priest. Then he’s kidnapped and sold into slavery and becomes trained as a warrior in Greece before heading back home to take on the guy who killed his family.
By the end he’s ruling with his priestess-consort and it’s the beginning of something entirely new for the country and it’s that which allows for the rise of Arthur and Merlin and the Arthurian legend.
These books are fun but intense. A lot of blood and a lot of sacrifice and intense religious experiences, but they’re good for people who are interested in early Celtic history, or who have an interest in Celtic paganism, or indeed, who like to see a fantasy series that focuses on women for a change.