Development (Avalon)

In 1995, Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders first aired. The show followed the adventures of three teenage girls who, with the help of magic jewels and talking animal friends, defended the kingdom of Avalon from a rogue princess and an evil sorceress. This boiled down to a race to find several magic jewels.

In 2001, Circles in the Stream, the first volume of Avalon: Web of Magic, was published. The book series followed the adventures of three young teenage girls who, with the help of magic jewels and talking animal friends, defended a network of magical worlds from an evil sorceress. This boiled down to a race to find several magic jewels and a lost city called Avalon.

You probably noticed that Avalon and Jewel Riders have similar premises. That’s no accident.

Avalon: Web of Magic is the semi-official modern day AU of Jewel Riders. Written by Rachel Roberts (the pen name of Robert Mandell and an unknown co-author), the books take familiar characters, storylines, and concepts from the Jewel Riders show and place them in our mundane, present-day world. It was conceived as a mixed-media project, with music, merchandise, and a film or tv series to back up the books.

Music downloads were made available on the series’ official websites. For longtime Jewel Riders fans, this was the first time they could obtain clean versions of songs from the show. Imagine having “Feel the Magic,” “Spirit of Avalon,” and “Friend in You” on your iPod! And if you were lucky enough to pick up a first printing of Spellsinger or see Rachel Roberts on her book tour, you could get a CD with the songs and a sample of the Circles in the Stream audiobook.

Merchandise, however, was rare. When the books were first published, there were mail-in forms for children’s t-shirts and wolf and unicorn plushies. Years later, when the series was revised and re-released, the new publisher sold t-shirts and posters of the cover art. A contest on the series’ official site awarded winners with rubber bracelets and a branded tote bag.

What remains most elusive, however, is the long-teased film or tv series. First mentioned in a contest ad in the back of a book, the project has had a troubled production history. Various producers and directors were attached to the project from 2004 to 2014, but no film ever materialized.

In 2016, voyager.world (Robert Mandell’s production company) started posting concept art for an Avalon: Web of Magic animated series. For Avalon fans, this was welcome news: not only was this the first major update in years, but it was the first sign of progress on the oft-delayed project. For Jewel Riders fans, this was probably the closest they would get to a reboot.

I discovered Avalon: Web of Magic on the Avalon Jewel Riders fansite in the early 2000s, when I was going through a teenage nostalgia trip. Somewhere in-between downloading the official Avalon map and copying the mailing address for ordering Jewel Riders tapes, I found a link for the books’ official site. Stormy’s description got me hooked: Not Jewel Riders, but still cool!

I wasn’t prepared to find my favorite characters transported to the present day, struggling to save the universe, finish their homework, and maintain a nature preserve. They may have had different names, new jewels, and new animal friends, but their adventures were familiar. For this Jewel Riders fan, Avalon was the reimagining I never knew I wanted.

Unfortunately, Avalon also shared one of Jewel Riders’ most heartbreaking problems: a lack of an ending. Much like many Jewel Riders fans missing the final two episodes of the series, the last two books of Avalon: Web of Magic weren’t published during its initial run. I remember preordering Dark Mage from the local Borders when I was in college, only to discover on the release date that the publisher had gone under. So for the rest of my college career I had to imagine that the mages’ adventures followed those of the Jewel Riders, with an epic battle in Avalon for control over all magic. Hey, if the back half of the book series featured a jewel quest, characters reciting lines from Jewel Riders episodes verbatim, and plots lifted from the show wholesale, such a conclusion wouldn’t be that farfetched.

Avalon fans were lucky that the books were picked up by a new publisher who actually finished the series. And they were promised new content: a manga-inspired comic (The Warlock Diaries) and a sequel series focusing on a fan-favorite character (Shadow Warrior).

Only one of those ever materialized.

An Avalon: Web of Magic sequel series has been teased nearly as long as the film project. Rachel Roberts mentioned a six-book series called Avalon: Guardians of Magic on the official website in 2004: “The mages will experience a whole new level of magic, new animal friends, new mages, and a whole new adventure.” The series’ publisher went belly-up a year later, with all hopes of a sequel dashed.

A decade later, after Avalon was finally completed, Rachel teased a new sequel series titled Avalon: Shadow Warrior. This series would focus on Adriane, the Fallon counterpart, and her adventures with the shapeshifting mistwolves. Like the previous Guardians of Magic, Shadow Warrior would feature a new magic level, new mages, and a new adventure. Teaser art and new background information on the characters were added to the official website.

And then … nothing. The website stopped updating. With no way to contact Rachel, fans had to assume that the project was dead.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Avalon: Web of Magic. These books were instrumental in keeping my love of Jewel Riders alive through my adulthood. Even now, their themes of friendship resonate with me, especially in the darkest of times.

What will the next 20 years bring? The animated series’ release? Rachel Roberts finding the Shadow Warrior manuscript on her hard drive and finally publishing it? Pigs flying?

Whatever is in store, I’m certain that both Avalon and Jewel Riders fans are eagerly awaiting it.

Book Cover Development

Development Art for the Seven Seas Edition by Allison Strom

Listen to a podcast featuring our interview with Allie Strom!

Notes from Jacquesworth on the Development art:

Cover1 – cover3: Probably thumbnails. Characters and major background elements are quickly sketched out. The first and third ones also have tones / shading added. (I like the action pose and severe Dutch angle versions!)

Cover 4: This matches the pose the girls are in on the final cover.

Avalon: Pencils for final cover. The details in the foliage are the same as the finished cover, but the girls are in different poses / positions.

The individual images of the mages look like the pictures that were included at the start of the first three books. Not a fan of Adriane’s early-2000s skater goth look. Kara’s style is more boho and less expensive / trendy / fashionable. Emily looks pretty much the same.

Fan Art Created in 2020 by Allison Strom