January 22, 2014

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Arthurian Legends.  They're a whole genre unto themselves.  But Bradley does a few things different with her rendition of the famous Arthur and his court.  She tells it from the eyes of the women involved. 

We start with Igraine, married by her sister the Lady of the Lake to a man for political reasons. She has a daughter she names Morgaine, but later the Lady decides a different fate for her and she bears a son named Arthur to the new King of the land.  Morgaine's and Arthur's fates intertwine in ways not expected and will be friends, family, enemies and more.  With Morgaine as a Priestess of Avalon and Arthur drawn to the Christian faith, their relationship is as contentious as any out there, especially since both believe they are doing right by their people.

Morgaine is complicated.  And I like that Bradley didn't paint her as the evil witch so many of the Arthur legends portray her as.  She has depth, flaws, and caring in this book.  And she's probably the main character, which is a relief as I didn't really enjoy the first part of the book that involved her mother.  Igraine wasn't nearly as interesting and tiresome in her complaining.  Arthur was somewhat weak in character in this book.  I don't mean that he wasn't a strong King and did well for his people to the best of his ability, but more that he was easily led by the people around him.  Mordred was involved in this book, but I didn't really find him that menacing or compelling.  He was kind of just there.

I had forgotten just how dialogue driven this book is.  Sure the characters more around do stuff, but they talk and think about things more.  And some of the conversations can get repetitive whether it be about lineage or the difference between Christianity and the Priestesses of the Goddess.  There will be some who are offended by the references to Christianity in this book as well.  They don't have a good relationship with the people of Avalon and the distaste is clearly shown in the book.  You have been warned.  But I do think that Bradley does a great job of capturing some complex characters in this book.  It may be wordy, but for good reason, this is a tale drawn out over half a century with several key players and intrigues that every detail has to count on. 

If you like complicated books, this is one to read.  The movie isn't half bad either.  And, if you do like it, it became a series and there are more books to read that coincide with this one.

The Mists of Avalon
Copyright 1982
876 pages

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