The Mists of Avalon

{4.5/5} “Truth has many faces and the truth is like to the old road to Avalon; it depends on your own will, and your own thoughts, whither the road will take you.”

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, published in 1983

This is Bradley’s retelling of the King Arthur story from the point of view of the women. The women being Morgan le Fay’s mother, Morgan le Fay, Guinevere, and others. The King Arthur story isn’t my favourite, but this retelling makes it make sense. That is, it makes sense who sleeps with whom and who betrays whom in the context of the details provided here.

Morgaine (she’s only called Morgan le Fay in the future) is a priestess in the religion of the Great Goddess. The religion is based in Avalon, a place that is connected to but not in the mundane world. Arthur, Morgaine’s half-sister, is given Excalibur by the high priestess in return for swearing loyalty to Avalon. But Arthur turns his back on Avalon in favour of Christianity, mostly because of his wife Guinevere. Morgaine decides that Arthur must return the sword and be replaced by a king who will be loyal to Avalon.

One of the main themes in the book is religion – specifically the old religion of the Great Goddess versus the new Christianity that’s sweeping Britain. Some practitioners of Christianity are willing to allow others to have their own religion, but others are not.

It’s a tragedy, which is fine, but there are only so many times you can say “No, don’t do that!” before you get weary. Ultimately I found it a bit frustrating. Nevertheless I wanted to find out what happened and the book kept me interested for all 900 pages. There aren’t many bad guys in this book — mostly people trying to do what’s right from their point of view.

Other King Arthur versions I’m familiar with are the movies Excalibur and First Knight (neither of which are great), and the books The Once and Future King (which I didn’t finish) and Knight Life (a funny story about Arthur in the 20th century). For me, it’s likely that in the future when I think of King Arthur I will think of The Mists of Avalon.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 8:03 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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