Posted by: Samantha | September 26, 2008

Reviewed: The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon is a book that is very near and dear to my heart!  The book is older than me and within its pages is a legend, a fairytale, or a version of some distant truth that has been told every different way imaginable.  The late Marion Zimmer Bradley told it in a way that no one has ever attempted to and by doing so, she created a version of the King Arthur legend that surpasses all others – in my opinion. The story unfolds through the eyes of the women in King Arthur’s life:
  • Gwenhwyfar (Gwenevere – Arthur’s Wife)
  • Viviane (The Lady of the Lake)
  • Igraine (Arthur’s Mother)
  • Morgause (Morgaine’s Plotting Aunt)
  • Morgaine (Arthur’s Sister and Mother to Arthur’s Son)

Throughout the book, we follow the lady Morgaine (Morgan le Fay).  Playing a central role in a world that is changing politically and spiritually, Morgaine faces obstacles that seem impossible to overcome.  In a world where the old Pagan ways of nature, magick and ritual are being threatened by the new Christian ways of intolerance, piety and suppression – Morgaine is given a large part of the responsibility of keeping Avalon alive.  We witness the gradual yet seemingly unstoppable transformation to patriarchy and the resistance of those who still live by the old ways.

Over the course of Morgaine’s lifetime, we experience her pain, betrayal and rejection as she is tricked into bearing a son belonging to her own baby brother, toyed with by the man she loves fiercely, and forced to marry a man twice her age in order to keep peace in Arthur’s kingdom.  While every other story featuring Morgan le Fay depicts her as cold, unforgiving and evil – this story brings her to life, allowing us to feel her emotions and see what she sacrifices for the people and the land she loves the most.

Of course, most readers have the basic idea of how things play out in the King Arthur tales, but Bradley tells the story in such a way that you are shocked, heartbroken, ecstatic and sympathetic to the characters as these events occur.  As you turn the pages, each character’s layers are revealed, and you’re able to relate to them because every one of them is human and their emotions and feelings are very real and natural.

My favorite thing about this book is that we’re able to witness Morgaine growing and maturing – transforming from a young and naïve girl into a strong, powerful woman driven by love, bitterness and devotion to her beliefs.  While a great book allows you to become part of the story – this book becomes part of you!  I read this book often – and it never gets old.  Each time, a new layer is revealed to me and I gain a deeper understanding.  I believe this book is one that everyone should try, because I think it will always contain a deeper understanding which may change depending on who reads it.

Note: If you think you might like ‘The Mists of Avalon,’ you may also like the book preceding it, ‘The Priestess of Avalon.’  Reading one is not necessary to enjoy the other – it just enhances the storyline.

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