Leilanie Stewart’s Gods of Avalon Road

Title: Gods of Avalon Road
Author: Leilanie Stewart
Publisher: Blossom Spring Publishing
Published Date: 20th October 2019
Page Count: 443
Price: $2.99
Reviewer: Gwendoline SK Terry (22nd April 2022)

London, present day.
Kerry Teare and her university friend Gavin move to London to work for the enigmatic Oliver Doncaster. Their devious new employer lures them into an arcane occult ritual involving a Golden Horse idol.

Britannia, AD 47.
Aithne is the Barbarian Queen of the Tameses tribes. The Golden Warrior King she loves is known as Belenus. But are the mutterings of the Druids true: is he really the Celtic Sun God himself?

Worlds collide as Oliver’s pagan ritual on Mayday summons gods from the Celtic Otherworld of Avalon. Kerry is forced to confront the supernatural deities and corrupt mortals trying to control her life and threatening her very existence.

This is a gorgeous, unpredictable novel.

Leilanie Stewart has created a superb story filled with intrigue and rich description. Despite the mystery filling the pages, there are laugh-out-loud funny moments, steamy romance scenes, and exciting fights. Stewart has a distinct voice in her writing that draws you into the novel, and her complex character each have their own unique personalities. My favourite character of all is Gavin – he’s a down-to-earth, genuine guy, with such a real personality. He draws the short end of the stick and behaves in a manner I think all people would if they were in his situation.

After researching the author a little, it was no surprise to find she has a background in archaeology. Her knowledge is evident throughout the novel; she portrays the art, architecture and mythology in expert detail. The author depicted the pagan rituals gorgeously. I don’t know whether the rites were accurate or wonderful designs from the author’s imagination, but they were elaborate and mystical, and I really enjoyed them.

Without giving too much away, I expected a friends-to-loves trope between two of the characters, and that wasn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, I was not upset by the fact the trope didn’t come to fruition – I actually found it quite refreshing when it didn’t happen, but I was surprised.

I don’t know what it was about the cover (maybe the swirls going down the edges?), but I honestly thought this was going to be a YA novel. It most definitely isn’t, the book includes many sex/lusty scenes and bloody fights. In my opinion, the sex scenes are tastefully written, vivid enough to be steamy, but not explicit enough to affront sensitive readers.

About halfway through the novel, there was a large info dump of Stewart’s mythology knowledge that wasn’t necessarily vital to the story. It gives the reader an insight into the pasts of a few characters, so I do not think it was pointless, just a little excessive.

This novel is long and very much dialogue-driven. I found the constant discussions a bit much about three-quarters of the way through the book, but thankfully they were followed up with some stunning descriptions. The author is a great writer and, by that point in the book, I wanted to discover things through the great descriptions she composes rather than through the characters’ conversations. In particular, I adored Kerry’s flashbacks to her previous life as Aithne, especially the love scenes between her and Belenus.

If you’re looking for a slow-burn romance, this is not the book for you. My biggest complaint about the book is the love-at-first-sight between Kerry and Belenus, and how Gavin and Blodeuwedd married after a couple of days of knowing each other (though I do feel that poor Gavin was manipulated into it a bit). I get that Kerry and Belenus shared multiple past lives together, but Kerry didn’t remember all of it when she first met Belenus, so it was really annoying when she decided she was madly in love with him within less than 24 hours of meeting him. Even the characters themselves remarked on how concerningly quickly the romance was unfurling! Thankfully this story was good enough for me to look past the love-at-first-sight trope, but I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t irk me. Tropes are very much subjective; what trope doesn’t work for me might work for someone else. I don’t mind a good love triangle, for instance, whereas someone else might detest them. Fortunately, after the flashback scenes to Kerry and Belenus’s past lives together, I found myself forgiving the love-at-first-sight because the flashbacks were beautiful.

Oliver charmed the pants off of me and I was honestly a bit bummed when he turned out to be the villain. Stewart wrote him so well that I was completely enchanted by his façade, making the reveal of his true colours shocking. I love morally grey characters, and the gods in this story were exactly that. They were pagan deities of the past and their mentalities were true to the time period in which they had ruled, regardless of the fact they were now in the modern times. They did not understand Gavin’s and Kerry’s horror at a certain ritual at the end, but that seemed realistic to me. The ending was interesting – almost bittersweet, I really liked it. Gavin’s situation in the end really tugged at my heartstrings, I’d love for the author to write a novella or something about his life with Blodeuwedd considering the note she ended on with him.