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Monday, February 8, 2010

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Genre: Fantasy/Arthurian

Copyright: 1987

Pages: 912

Rating: 5

I always love reading about King Arthur and this is, hands down, my favorite telling of the legend. In this epic novel Bradley tells us Arthur's story through the eyes of the women that loved and hated him, helped him and hindered him. Morgaine (Morgan Le Fey) and Gwenhwyfar are the two main narrators though Morgaine is the main protagonist in the story. There also sections told from other points of view: Igraine (Arthur's mother); Vivian, the Lady of the Lake; and Morgause, Morgaine's aunt and Vivian's sister. The novel spans a few generations, from Arthur's birth through his eventual downfall. We see how Morgaine is brought by her aunt Viviane to Avalon to train as a priestess and how much of the legend we are familiar with is their attempt to help Arthur while at the same time preserving their ancient ways. We get all the wonderful parts of the Arthurian legend here told in wonderful and breathtaking detail. Besides Arthur's story we also see the struggle in Britain between the Celtic, pagan tradition and Christianity, mainly through Morgaine's eyes as she tries desperately to save her Celtic culture. The two story lines (Arthur's and the religious struggle) are beautifully interwoven so that each affects the other. While the ancient pagan religion and magical practices do play a big part in this story I did not feel that they were too over the top or unbelievable; it is all very centered on the earth and nature.

Bradley's characters are extremely well developed and fascinating to follow. Morgaine, in most versions of the legend, is usually depicted as an evil, scheming sorceress while here she is shown as only trying to help her half-brother while saving her country and her religion. She was by far my favorite character; I could really sympathize with her throughout her many struggles in the novel. Gwenhwyfar is someone that I really did not like from the start. She is not a bad character but she goes from a very timid, mousy young child to a fanatically religious woman who believes her inability to give Arthur a child is God showing his displeasure over the existence of the pagan beliefs. At points she really can't make up her mind who or what she wants: Arthur or Lancelot? To believe in Morgaine's ways or to curse them? I really wanted to shake her a few times to help her make up her mind. Her pleas to Arthur really move him to turn his back on the pagan beliefs and this essentially becomes the catalyst that leads to his downfall. Morgause is really the villain in the story as she uses Morgaine and then Mordred as her tool to ruin not only Arthur but her sister Vivian as well. She is really ruthless and cunning in her constant struggle for power.

This is a truly wonderful and magnificent version of Arthur's story. Bradley's vivid descriptions of life and traditions during the Dark Ages and her intricate details of sights, sounds, and smells, really make the period come alive. You can almost close your eyes and see the Isle of Avalon appearing out of the mists. In my case, I wanted to be able to reach out and touch it. I would highly recommend this novel to any lover of Arthurian legends (it is quite long though so be prepared!) or to anyone who wants to become a lover of Arthurian legend.

*This was made into a TV mini series in 2001. It starred Anjelica Houston as Vivian.

23 comments:

Miss Rowley said...

I just watched this movie and I thought it was great.. love your post. keep up the great work.

ibeeeg said...

Loved this review. You have reminded my why I need to read this book. It has been on my list for ages. I see it at the bookstore all the time, each time tempted to buy it. I really ought to read it soon.

Have you read The Kingmaking? If so, what did you think of that story? I loved the Kingmaking.

Mary said...

This book is in my house somewhere. One of my daughters read it a few years ago - I'll have to call her and find out where it is because after reading your review I want to read it! Thanks : )

Daphne said...

This was the first Arthurian book that I read. I really liked it but thought it was a little long - I was definately glad to see the last page! Enjoyed the movie as well.

~Jennifer~ said...

This is one of my top 3 favorite books of all time. Its size is intimidating, but it was just a fantastic book. I liked the mini-series, but it just couldn't hold a candle to the book. Fantastic review.

CelticLady said...

I love Marion Zimmer Bradley. Although I did nto read this one and I do have the book. But I did buy the movie and I am not a person who buys a lot of movies but I had to have this one. Great review!!

Stephanie said...

This continues to be my favourite book by this author. I read it years ago and I still can't part with it.

Sherry said...

This is one of my all time favorite books. I rarely re-read anything, but this is one that I picked up recently so that I could! I also keep an antique suitcase filled with books to pass on to my daughter, this is one of them.

Sherry

Aths said...

Nice review! I want to read this one soon before watching the movie. I haven't exactly been itching to read this... but your review tells me I am missing out on something great!

Arya said...

Great review! I love Arthurian Legend so this sound right up my alley! =)

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Great review! I read and loved this book years ago. Maybe I should reread it some time soon.

fantasylover12001 said...

;blinks in surprise; I just picked this up in my library today to read and review...that's sort of funny...

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

This is one of my most favorite books! It is a glorious retelling of the Arthurian legend. I just love it when someone loves a book as much as I do! Everyone should read this book, if they haven't already!

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Michelle, I agree completely everyone should read this book!

misskallie2000 said...

I have got to read this book. Loved your review.

sue14625 said...

i am not entering as i have this book on my shelf and have read it more times that i can count over the years my copy is worn and well used -to whoever wins prepare to enjoy this great book its one of those you start reading and cant stop

Robinbird said...

Thanks for the comments! There was so much more I could have said about the book but I didn't want my post to be huge! It is such a fantastic book!

Erika said...

I loved this book! I felt so accomplished after I finished reading it. I don't think I'd ever read a book so long before then. :)

Chèli said...

I have this book and have yet to read it, I may have to bump it up on the pile, thanks for the review!

Chèli
Cheli's Shelves

Jenny Girl said...

I also loved this book and see my self re-reading eventually. Now I would to see the movie and compare the two. Everything in this story is just so well thought out and flows nicely together. Plus the whole religion and women element is quite interesting.
Great review!

J.T. Oldfield said...

I have never read this, but I plan on reading it this year. I'm a tad bit intimidated by the size of it though!

Also, didn't it come out in 1982?

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Hi J. T. Oldfied, yes this book was originally published in 1982. I'm guessing the reviewer used the date there particular copy was printed.

dorolerium said...

I absolutely love this book! I really need to reread it, and have had the other books in the series on my TBR pile for years!