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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon (original 1982; edition 1982)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,980224216 (4.11)2 / 546
Title:The Mists of Avalon
Authors:Marion Zimmer Bradley
Info:Ballantine Books (1982), Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Arthurian Legend, Fantasy

Work details

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1982)

  1. 133
    Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey (cataylor)
  2. 102
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (krasiviye.slova)
    krasiviye.slova: Similar decline and fall of the matriarchy theme, with different spins.
  3. 30
    Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Very similar subject on mythology, Celts, Druids, and Matriarchy.
  4. 30
    Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel by Kate Horsley (fyrefly98)
  5. 41
    Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (alchymyst)
  6. 20
    Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (legxleg)
    legxleg: I am pairing these two books together because both have a thread of female-centric religion struggling to survive.
  7. 10
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (kiwiflowa)
  8. 21
    Queen of Camelot by Nancy Mckenzie (lannabrooke13)
    lannabrooke13: I personally thought Mckenzie's version was much more realistic and engaging!
  9. 00
    The White Mare by Jules Watson (al.vick)
  10. 11
    The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw (cataylor)
  11. 00
    Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw (MissBrangwen)
  12. 12
    The Black Chalice by Marie Jakober (lquilter)
    lquilter: Like Bradley's Mists of Avalon, Marie Jakober's The Black Chalice has similar patriarchy-superseding-matriarchal-magic themes, but with Germanic mythology. Beautifully written.
  13. 01
    The Circle Cast by Alex Epstein (Bitter_Grace)

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English (205)  Dutch (9)  German (3)  Italian (3)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (223)
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
"Reading The Mists of Avalon, I was slightly alienated by the cold, unromantic approach Bradley decided on while retelling the legend, swapping out the mysticism of Merlin, The Lady of The Lake and the evil sorceress Morgause and instead implanting them with the magic of neo-pagan theology. Also at cost of Bradley's approach was the sweeping and winsome tales of Arthur and his knights of the round table, and replaced with instead a more political, Machiavellian take on the women of King Arthur. Despite the odd nature the author brings to her retelling, I found this worth the read. The women of King Arthur are certainly empowered, but are not exemplified as better than men in any way. Instead, The Mists of Avalon reads more as a fable on the consequences of power and the accompanying tragedy that comes with keeping it.

The subversion of the classic Arthurian myth is mostly accurate here. Mostly. The anti-christian rhetoric is ever-present, told mostly through the voice of Guinevere, who is negatively portrayed as Arthur's manipulator and the destruction of Avalon's influence in Arthur's court. Despite her being portrayed as a religious fanatic, I would say Bradley portrays her with enough dignity to justify her as more of a victim of her oppressive upbringing. Mordred, who I've come to see as the embodiment of treachery and evil in these Arthurian tales, is ultimately more humanized here but no less presents the story with a conflict that resolves this saga in a satisfying, complete way.

Overall, Bradley writes an engaging tale, full of revelation, foreboding, character introspection and political intrigue. Her ideas of ""what is or what should be"" are at times rather didactic and present ideas that seem to be in favour of her theological underpinnings, as opposed to ideas that can be interpreted by the reader. That being said, I am not completely against most of Bradley's ideas; she does offer a progressive and otherwise more pro-educative view on theology. One that inspires thought and rumination on the power, disillusionment and manipulation of a belief system. Her portrayal of women, particularly the ones who hold influence over the men, is interesting but heavy-handed and not entirely convincing, even in the logic of the Britain that she has created.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
Never name the well from which you will not drink.
There is no sorrow like the memory of love and the knowledge that it is gone forever.
What wise God would consign a man to Hell for ignorance, instead of teaching him better in the afterlife?

The Last Passage
Gorlois let go of Igraine's arm. She could see the marks of his fingers already reddening into dark bruises; she rubbed the marks, tears streaming down her face. Before the many faces surrounding them she was appalled, as if she had been taken and shamed; she covered her face with her veil and wept harder than ever. Gorlois pushed her before him. She did not hear what he said to Uther; only when they were outside in the street did she stare at him, amazed.

He said in a rage, ""I will not accuse you before all men, Igraine, but God is my witness I should be justified in doing so. Uther looked at you just now as a man looks at a woman he has known as no Christian man has a right to know any other man's wife!""

Igraine, feeling her heart pounding in her breast, knew it was true, and felt confusion and despair. In spite of the fact that she had seen Uther only four times, and dreamed twice of him, she knew that they had looked at each other and spoken to each other as if they had been lovers for many years, knowing all and more than all about each other, body and mind and heart. She recalled her dream, where it seemed that they had been bound for many years by a tie which, if it was not marriage, might as well have been so. Lovers, partners, priest to priestess-whatever it was called. How could she tell Gorlois that she had known Uther only in a dream, but that she had begun to think of him as the man she had loved so long ago that Igraine herself was not yet born, was a shadow; that the essence within her was one and the same with that woman who had loved that strange man who bore the serpents on his arms in gold ... .

How could she say this to Gorlois, who knew, and wished to know, nothing of the Mysteries?

He pushed her ahead of him into their lodging. He was ready, she knew, to strike her if she had spoken; but her silence frustrated him even more. He shouted, ""Have you nothing to say to me, my wife?"" and gripped her already bruised arm so strongly that she cried out anew with the pain of his hand.

""Did you think I did not see how you looked at your paramour?""

She wrenched her arm away from him, feeling as if he would actually tear it out of the socket. ""If you saw that, then you saw me turn away from him when he would have had no more than a kiss! And did you not hear him say to me that you were his loyal supporter and he would not take the wife of his friend-""

""If I was ever his friend, I am so no more!"" Gorlois said, his face dark with fury. ""Do you truly think I shall support a man who would take my wife from me, in a public place, shaming me before all his assembled chiefs?""

""He did not!"" Igraine cried out, weeping. ""I have never so much as touched his lips!"" It seemed all the more vicious since she had indeed desired Uther but had kept herself scrupulously away from him. Why, if I am to be accused of guilt when I am innocent of any wrongdoing even as he would call it so, why should I not have done what Uther wished?

""I saw how you looked at him! And you have kept apart from my bed since first you set eyes on Uther, you faithless whore!""

""How do you dare!"" she gasped, raging, and caught up the silver mirror he had given her, flinging it at his head. ""Take back that word, or I swear I will throw myself into the river before ever you touch me again! You lie, and you know you lie!""
" ( )
1 vote AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
Arthurian legend from the female perspective. The protagonist is actually Arthur's sister, the one who also mothered his child that proved to be his nemesis. A mammoth book to an adolescent! I discovered Mists of Avalon during my tenth grade year, when I had learned about Arthurian Legends in English class. My interest in the subject matter was almost quelled by the length of the text--somewhere around 1000 pages. After the very first page, I was hooked! This was my favorite novel of all time during my high school years, igniting an interest in Wicca, mythology, magic, etc. A story as beautiful as the goddess within us all. ( )
1 vote engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a wonderfully enchanting tale of the Arthurian legends.
The book takes you into another world, and lets you explore the time of Arthur through the eyes of a women.
This book is wonderfully intricate and full of fantasy, intrigue and romance. ( )
  Haidji | Aug 11, 2015 |
This is a very female version of the Arthurian tales. It is largely sympathetic to Morgan la Fey and the culture of the Druids and unsympathetic to Christianity. Magic was used surprisingly successfully throughout the story. This version was successful in making the characters seem more complex and realistic and less focused on the buffets on the head that seem to be ever-present in the Malory version. I also enjoyed the aspects of these tales that are less discussed in other versions, such as the magical boat and the semi-present Avalon. One aspect I didn't fully understand was the fairy land characters occasionally encountered when trying to reach Avalon. Other details of the relationship between Lancelot, Gwen, and Arthur were a surprise but were not inconsistent with reality as presented in this version. Overall this is an interesting addition to the Arthurian legends. ( )
2 vote karmiel | Jul 29, 2015 |
One of my all time favourite books! A must read for anyone who enjoys Arthurian legend. I don't believe the popularly held theory that it's a "woman's book.
  Avalon59 | Jul 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
In ''The Mists of Avalon,'' Marion Zimmer Bradley's monumental reimagining of the Arthurian legends, the story begins differently, in the slow stages of female desire and of moral, even mythic, choice. Stepping into this world through the Avalon mists, we see the saga from an entirely untraditional perspective: not Arthur's, not Lancelot's, not Merlin's. We see the creation of Camelot from the vantage point of its principal women - Viviane, Gwynyfar, Morgaine and Igraine. This, the untold Arthurian story, is no less tragic, but it has gained a mythic coherence; reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience.

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marion Zimmer Bradleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bralds, BraldtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herranen, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"...Morgan le Fay was not married, but put to school in a nunnery, where she became a great mistress of magic."
- Malory, Morte d'Arthur
First words
Morgaine speaks...In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen.
a land ruled by priests is a land filled with tyrants on Earth and in Heaven
the faith of Christ is a fitting faith for slaves who think themselves sinners and humble
What of the King Stag, when the young stag is grown?
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Disambiguation notice
The French edition is divided into 2 volumes.
The Brazilian and Spanish editions are divided into 4 volumes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345350499, Paperback)

Even readers who don't normally enjoy Arthurian legends will love this version, a retelling from the point of view of the women behind the throne. Morgaine (more commonly known as Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh spelling of Guinevere) struggle for power, using Arthur as a way to score points and promote their respective worldviews. The Mists of Avalon's Camelot politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the island-nation of Britain; Christianity vs. Faery, and God vs. Goddess are dominant themes.

Young and old alike will enjoy this magical Arthurian reinvention by science fiction and fantasy veteran Marion Zimmer Bradley. --Bonnie Bouman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Morgan le Fay (Morgaine) has to sacrifice her virginity during fertility rites, the man who impregnates her is her younger brother Arthur, whom she turns against when she thinks he has betrayed the old religion of Avalon.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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