This book came to my attention over Christmas, when someone was looking for it for a gift. How can you not be attracted to a book about the women behind King Arthur’s throne? And as I started thinking about it, I realized I’d never actually read up on King Arthur, mostly only seen movies, which have varying timelines and storylines. So, naturally, I started down a rabbit hole.
Marion Zimmer Bradley takes a different tack by focusing very little on Arthur, and mostly on Morgain, his half-sister. Morgain is a mystic, reared in Avalon, and dedicated to saving her old religion from the sweeping tide of Christianity. The story follows the siblings from childhood through adulthood, showing where their paths started diverging and where they made choices that set their futures in stone. Each one pursued the path they felt was right, accepting the consequences of their actions and struggling to understand the bigger picture of their lives.
Right from the start, the story is full of intrigue and action. One of my early thoughts was that I could recommend this to people looking to fill the void left by Game of Thrones, it’s got so many similarities. It’s full of tangled webs of plotting and scheming, love triangles and affairs, secret children and general secrets. Betrayal. What I hadn’t expected, though I’m not sure why, was the paganism. But mixed into the story, and particularly Avalon, is Celtic religion, in all it’s pagan glory.
It was strange reading this book while at the same time going through the TV show Merlin, as the storylines are wildly different, though it seems like The Mists of Avalon follows closer to classic Arthurian legend (though, stay tuned, as I go down the rabbit hole, I may find differently).
This book took me a long time to get through, not because it was bad or tough, but because it’s almost 900 pages and I had other stuff going on. That said, it is a hefty read, with a lot of side stories that weave together to impact the narrative as a whole, though sometimes you have to wait a while for them to all tie together.
While I had some issues with the book (like not having Arthur pull Excalibur from the stone), overall I enjoyed it. It was an interesting read, and a unique way to tell the story, looking at the women behind King Arthur, and using their stories to tell his own.
So if you’re into Arthurian legend and lore, it’s definitely worth reading. Just be prepared for lots of taboo, because Bradley doesn’t hold anything back.
Also, enjoy this picture of Oscar endorsing this book.