It is my great pleasure to welcome Nicole Evelina, author of Daughter of Destiny to One Book Shy of a Full Shelf today as she wraps up her fantastic book tour with Amy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Welcome and take it away Nicole!
Avalon and Religion in Daughter of Destiny
Approximately the first 40% of Daughter of Destiny takes place in Avalon, the not-quite-in-this-world mythological isle of legend. It’s very interesting to me that for some people, that’s their favorite part of the book, while others feel like that part is slow and drags down the overall story. I wanted to take some time today to explore why I chose to make Avalon a major setting for the book. Whether you like that section or not, I hope reading this will help you know if my book may appeal to you.
Because I began my adult adventures in Arthurian legend (though my love for the stories dates back to childhood) with The Mists of Avalon, it’s only natural that I hold a special place in my heart for Avalon. While my isle in the mists isn’t quite as removed from the real world as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s – my mists are not magical as in Mists, but natural like those around Glastonbury Tor, and my Avalon has a small land route connecting it to outside world – Avalon is still a place of mystery and magic – one I didn’t feel right leaving out of my retelling.
I wanted, first and foremost, to show an approximation of what Druidic training may have been like. Due to the nature of a novel and the rest of the story I had to tell in the first book, I had to speed up the historical 20-year process. I condensed it down to four years. I have my students study subjects that Druids likely did, including law, Ogham (a written and possibly oral language), herb craft, and manipulation of the elements. You may notice that my magic isn’t anything Hollywood outrageous. That is because I tried to keep within the spirit of actual Celtic/Druidic belief; based on what little we know of their beliefs, if they had magic, it was likely more subtle than our modern minds tend to imagine. That is also why you see a few lunar and agricultural rituals (which are somewhat based in neo-paganism because we have no period sources to draw from) and throughout the series you’ll see many different gods and goddesses invoked. For the Celts, magic and religion/ritual were part of daily life, so I wanted that to be the case for my characters as well.
Guinevere lives in Avalon for a formative period of her life, from the age of 11 through 15 (14 was legal marrying age for a girl). Having her experience that time in an isolated location with a bunch of other women meant she wasn’t subject to the prevailing thoughts and influences of the time that said men were dominant, Christianity was the only way, etc. (Guinevere’s mother raised her with beliefs rare to post-Roman Britain but more common to her native Votandini tribe in what is now southern Scotland.) In this little cocoon, Guinevere was free to nurture the outspokenness and intelligence that her mother instilled in her and it made her a much stronger woman that she might have been had she stayed in Northgallis. I thought of it kind of like going off to an all-girls boarding school, one where she would make lifelong friends and rivals *cough* Morgan *cough,* just as girls do today. (I went to an all-girls high school – not a boarding school – and can attest to how quickly bonds and enmities form. Both are still in full effect among my classmates 19 years later.)
One of the things I wanted to explore in my series was the tension between the old religion of Britain (which I’ve chosen to define as the Druid faith) and the ascending power of Christianity. We really don’t know for certain when Christianity came to Britain or when it became dominant. Some scholars say it was already the main religion of the people by the time my book opens in 491 AD, especially given that Constantine legalized it in the early 300s. However, as the Celtic Church’s later squabbles with Rome show, change took a long time to travel from Rome to Britain, and when it did, it was often slow to be adopted. Therefore, it’s my personal belief that the period of my novel was still a time of transition when the old ways were dying out and slowly being replaced by Christianity. Establishing Guinevere as an Avalonian priestess and showing the old beliefs during her time on Avalon gives the reader a baseline to contrast with the predominance of Christianity that she experiences once she leaves Avalon, and later on into later books.
Did I write all of this consciously? Yes and no. Putting all of the above aside, I have to admit that Avalon is a fun location to write, one you will see in all three books because of its impact on Guinevere’s life. I hope you enjoy living there with Guinevere as much as I enjoyed writing it. If not, no harm done – you’ll be back at the courts of Northgallis and Corbenic (and Camelot in later books) before you can say “mists.”
How do you envision Avalon? What are you hoping to see in that section of the book? What do you think about my reasons for using it as a location? Are you interested in reading Daughter of Destiny?
If you haven’t read this fantastic first book in Nicole’s new series Guinevere’s Tale, check out my glowing review HERE. You can also check out the details and preorder a copy of the next amazing installment “Camelot’s Queen“. I can’t wait for it to come out!