Book Review: The Mists of Avalon (Avalon, Book 1) by Marion Zimmer Bradley

mistsThe story of King Arthur’s court is not what you had thought…

In this epic retelling of Avalon and Camelot, Arthurian legend is presented from the point of view of Arthur’s half-sister, Morgaine Le Fay, in Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s The Mists of Avalon. Contrary to the popular legends, Bradley’s version of Morgaine was not an evil sorceress who seduced her brother, but a loving sister and budding priestess who was tricked unknowingly into an incestuous encounter with her brother, as part of a greater scheme to preserve their bloodline.

The narrator gives insight into nearly all of the characters’ perspectives, but Morgaine is the main heroine of this lengthy tome. Her story begins as early as with her mother Igraine, and painstakingly details Morgain’s childhood, tutelage in Avalon under the High Priestess Viviane, and her unrequited love for the knight Lancelet (who loves Arthur’s wife, the fair Christian queen, Gwenhwyfar). We accompany Morgaine through spellbinding chronicles of war and fantasy, magic and romance, deceit and betrayal, manipulation and heartache, all against a rich backdrop of thoroughly-researched, heavily detailed Arthurian and Avalonian mythology. This book does has heavy pagan overtones of goddess-worship and some anti-Christian sentiment. (Bradley, who died an Episcopalian, was involved in the Neo-Pagan movement at the time of writing this.)

This is an unforgettable novel and a tremendous achievement. I grew deep attachments to all of the characters, flaws and all, who each felt so real as they were painted so three-dimensionally. I strongly recommend this classic book to lovers of fantasy and mythology, or anyone interested in an in-depth and fascinating spin on Arthurian legend. This book has had an enormous influence on me.

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