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The Mists of Avalon Paperback – May 1, 1984
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Young and old alike will enjoy this magical Arthurian reinvention by science fiction and fantasy veteran Marion Zimmer Bradley. --Bonnie Bouman
--The New York Times Book Review
"Marion Zimmer Bradley has brilliantly and innovatively turned the myth inside out. . . . add[ing] a whole new dimension to our mythic history."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Gripping . . . Superbly realized . . . A worthy addition to almost a thousand years of Arthurian tradition."
--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
- ASIN : 0345350499
- Publisher : Ballantine Books; 1st edition (May 1, 1984)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 876 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780345350497
- ISBN-13 : 978-0345350497
- Reading age : 14 - 18 years
- Lexile measure : 1030L
- Item Weight : 2.05 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.07 x 1.57 x 9.18 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #23,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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For my review, I won't get into the actual story line or historic facts VS. mythology and fiction (many reviewers have already gone that route). I want to express my overall impressions of this book, because the feelings this book evoked caused 10+ rereads!
The writing in this book is incredible. It sucks you right into the time period and character's minds. You really feel you're there with them experiencing everything. There is historical accuracy mixed in with fiction, little elements like clothing and food that are woven throughout the story in a way that's not tedious to read, but adds to the feel of the book. It's like stepping into a time machine. The interpersonal relationships are masterful and you really become part of the story. When you think of King Arthur myths, this is the type of story you envision. One that makes you question your beliefs about magic, mystery, and humanity -- that in my mind is perfect historical fiction. The author poured her heart and soul into this book, and it shows on every single page.
Bottom line, it's not a book ... it's an experience.
It is true that the women in this book are strong and capable and well worthy of respect and admiration (as, I believe, all women are). Having said that, all of the characters are so well-written and detailed, it is difficult to single out any one character as particularly well done. The personalities of each character and the growth (or regression) each experiences is one of the primary attractions of reading anything by the author. There were so many twists and turns to the plot that I was emotionally exhausted by the end of the book. In a good way, though!
I really appreciate a good King Arthur story. I also really appreciate literature that elevates Goddess worship. This book does both, and I came away knowing that I will read the other two books in the series. NOTE: I believe that there are more than three in the series, but after the third, my understanding is that Diana Paxson took over the writing. That isn't to say that those books are any better or worse, but that I will focus first on Marion Zimmer Bradley's work.
I very highly recommend The Mists of Avalon. There are so many beautiful parts to the book that I can't imagine anybody disliking it...unless the very discussion of a Goddess offends his or her sensibilities.
Morgaine is the main protagonist. And unlike in most retellings, she’s not an evil sorceress. Instead, she’s an initiate of Avalon, a mythical island that’s home to a sect of Goddess worshippers trying to stave off Christianity’s growing influence over Britain. Bradley includes the familiar love triangle between Arthur, Gwenhwyfar, and Lancelet (a.k.a. Lancelot), but the contest of religions is the core struggle in The Mists of Avalon. Viviane, Lady of Avalon when the story begins, places Arthur on the throne so that he may serve his Christian and non-Christian subjects alike. But Gwenhwyfar convinces him to become ever more Christian, and Viviane and Morgaine consider this conversion a betrayal of the oaths he swore to win the crown. In the years that follow, Avalon sets itself against Camelot and grows intolerant in kind.
Not everyone is as narrow-minded about religion, however. Morgause has little use for gods or goddesses, while the druidic Merlins (plural, in this version) believe all deities are one. Such a diversity of viewpoints is also present in how Bradley portrays the different spheres of influence available to women in her historical fantasy of early Britain. In Avalon, Morgaine and Viviane lead a matriarchal society. In the North, Morgause defies convention and rules as a queen who takes lovers as she wills. But in the South, Igraine and Gwenhwyfar (mostly) accept their priests’ advisements that they should be content to stay in their castles and make children and clothing for their husbands.
The overall story is more philosophical than I’m used to for a tale of King Arthur. It’s also slower; The Mists of Avalon spans generations and glosses over the usual knightly contests and heroic deeds. But if you want a Camelot that makes you think, Bradley’s seminal work is worth a read.
Top reviews from other countries
The first installation in her Avalon series, The Mists of Avalon focuses on familiar characters from Arthurian legend, detailing their various rises and falls. Bradley models and refashions the legends in her retelling, making it distinctly her own in several ways:
• Narrative perspective: this is famously a feminist perspective on a story traditionally dominated by knights and quests. The narrative is framed by Morgaine’s first-person retrospective narration while the rest is told in first-person. The story begins with Igraine, Arthur’s mother, long before the Round Table was ever installed in the hall, even before Arthur’s conception.
• Character interpretation: Bradley also re-casts the two most notorious women of the story: Morgaine (more commonly known as Morgan le Fay), and Gwenhyfar (Guinevere). Morgaine is the story's heroine who drives the plot’s action as she moves through the major settings of the book from the magical, pagan isle of Avalon to Arthur's court at Camelot and even to fairyland. Gwenhyfar is less sympathetically portrayed as a close-minded, pious, devout Christian who struggles to reconcile her faith with her sinful passion for Lancelet.
This is an extremely long book, clocking in at over 1,000 pages, so it's quite a commitment to finish. Despite being a slow burner, much of this book doesn’t drag at all, as it offers the reader a fascinating insight into the characters' lives over the decades, propelled throughout by a melodic, haunting and mystical writing style.
The Mists of Avalon covers the personal, political and spiritual; characters’ passions and wants are inextricably entwined with religious upheaval and the machinations of the royal court. The decline of the pagan religion and rise of Christianity is a prevalent theme, one on which most of the characters’ relationships – whether those of passion, love or fuelled by animosity – hinge.
Unfortunately, I think the novel’s major weakness is the end. This lengthy tome puts up a good fight but loses momentum in the last few hundred pages as events become more and more ridiculous. I lost sympathy for the character who I loved and rooted for, Morgaine, which made me much more disengaged with the story itself.
The climactic ending which is foreshadowed from as early as the Prologue deserved more page time, and the main villain of the story should have received more development and insight into his/her motives (no spoilers). This lack of understanding made the final events less satisfying and rich.
Ultimately, the quality of the end made me relieved that I had finally finished this: especially as it took me over a month to read it. It's a shame as for much of this audiobook's 50 hours I was under its spell.
Note: Davina Porter narrates the audiobook and she is truly excellent – her voice is compelling, rich and sophisticated and she effectively gives the wide cast of characters their own 'voice'.
Edit: finally finished this book again. I first read this in my teens (since I was young I’d loved the Arthurian legends started when my parents bought me 4 penguin books about King Arthur and his knights).
Now I’m 51 I found myself re-reading it and have to say it felt even more profound to me. A few times found myself tearing up and had to be careful while reading it at work (I’m a firefighter and not really prone to shows of raw emotion). The story is so beautiful and almost every character is imagined wonderfully. The story jumps about from each character but mainly Mograine and always the females (Guinevere, Elaine, Igrain, Vivian and Nimue to name a few)
It’s a must read and even better if you’ve already read it as a child and are now fully grown with children of your own now As I have just done.
I thought it would be interesting to read this book on Avalon and the legend that is King Arthur, his wife Gwen, the round table, Camelot, his knights, Lancelet and Morganaine.
It is a very long book and took me days to read it. It was really intense and at times I had to re-read a few pages at a time so that I could understand it.
Overall, I enjoyed it but I think that I will have to read it again to understand it a bit more, which I will do.
I hope that if you download to read you will enjoy it too.