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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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The Mists of Avalon (original 1982; edition 2001)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,509261265 (4.09)2 / 614
  1. 134
    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. 50
    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
    The Song of Albion Collection: The Paradise War, The Silver Hand, and The Endless Knot by Stephen Lawhead (charlie68)
    charlie68: Also a fun blend of early British myths.
  7. 20
    The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas (CurrerBell)
  8. 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.
  9. 21
    Queen of Camelot by Nancy Mckenzie (lannabrooke13, wordcauldron)
    lannabrooke13: I personally thought Mckenzie's version was much more realistic and engaging!
    wordcauldron: My favorite retelling of Arthurian legend. Period.
  10. 10
    Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey (ktoonen)
    ktoonen: Similar writing style, with strong feminist themes in epic fantasy.
  11. 10
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (kiwiflowa)
  12. 10
    The Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley (AniIma)
    AniIma: Fantastic, mythical, Arthurian Legend. Wonderful and skillfull storytelling by the author, Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  13. 11
    The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw (cataylor)
  14. 00
    Bulfinch's Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch (charlie68)
    charlie68: Another fun group of myths.
  15. 00
    Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw (MissBrangwen)
  16. 00
    Votan and Other Novels (Fantasy Masterworks) by John James (LamontCranston)
  17. 00
    The White Mare (Dalriada, Book 1) by Jules Watson (al.vick)
  18. 01
    The Circle Cast by Alex Epstein (Bitter_Grace)
  19. 01
    Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (charlie68)
    charlie68: Also a tale of knights.
  20. 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.

(see all 20 recommendations)

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English (242)  Dutch (9)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (259)
Showing 1-5 of 242 (next | show all)
This book is a fictional retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. On one level it is a welcome respite from the current political realities- a fairy tale of knights, chivalry, the royal court, and romantic intrigue between Lancelet and most of the other female characters in the book. But the book is much more than this. The book depicts the emergence of a male dominated Christian nation over its pagan heritage in which females are dominant and led by a Goddess. Arthur is at the intersection of these two religions and cultures. Vivianne, High Preistess of Avalon and incarnation of the Goddess, plots to guarantee the survival of her religion by arranging for her sister Igraine to birth children Morgaine and Arthur who are both in the royal line. The children eventually separate and grow up without each other. Morgaine and Arthur, through manipulation and deception of Vivianne, incestuously consummate a pagan ritual and Morgaine gives birth to a doubly endowed candidate for the throne after Arthur. Arthur only ascends to the throne because he has agreed that both his pagan and Christian heritage will be allowed to coexist, but he breaks his promise at the urging of his ultra-holy Christian wife Gwynyfar. Arthur’s betrayal sets up the ultimate tragedy of the characters. The book is narrated by its strong female characters: Morgaine, Vivianne, Igraine, and Gwynyfar- all strong women who manipulate their menfolk to achieve their ends, be they Christian or pagan.

This book is not for the faint of heart. At 876 pages, it is a real commitment. But I found it entertaining and educational. The Druid society that is described anticipated some movements in modern society, for example, feminism and broad acceptance of diverse sexual relations. I highly recommend the book. ( )
  cohenja | Nov 15, 2018 |
I've never read much of this book, although I've browsed thorough it a bit. I still have a copy because it was given to me over 30 years ago by a good friend. But the little I've read of it did not match my idea of the Arthurian legends, never mind my own connection with the original Taliesin. ( )
  gwernin | Oct 31, 2018 |
As I wrote this review, it became more about general impressions than an analysis of the story itself or comparisons to other versions, but I do parenthetically try to bring some relationships together according to this version of the story, just to add some context for my commentary.

As far as I know(?), this is the first rendition of this tale written entirely from the women's point of view. The best way I can describe this is it's like the epic soap opera version of Arthurian legend. This isn't meant to be disparaging, only to emphasize the fact that this retelling places an intense focus on relationships (romantic, friendship, family, soldier camaraderie, frenemies, enemies, etc.), their complications, and the mixed feelings they stir, which all became a bit emotionally exhausting to read (or, in my case, listen to, since I listened to the 50-hour audiobook), particularly when coupled with the frequent and lengthy theological debates--often, these two topics of relationships and theology intermingled.

I finished it, but I was also very ready to move on to something else. This book isn't heavy in the sense that it's like a science fiction or high fantasy story with complicated physics or world-building that I can't understand or keep track of, but neither is it exactly feel-good or light reading due to the impossible length and, as I noted, the emotionally exhausting explorations of love and spirituality. I think if every other page hadn't been discussions of this nature which only rehashed the same things over and over again, it might've been easier to get through and the book could've been shorter and more to the point. I wouldn't be surprised if I went through and highlighted every theological or moral debate that 50% of this book would be Bradley's take on the legend and the other 50% would be these discussions that, at a certain point, really didn't add anything but length. Eventually, I rolled my eyes every time they started.

That being said, in rereading this for the first time in twenty years, I realized that it may have been my first experience in critical thinking about religion and how I, personally, feel about it and relate to it. I don't think I'd had any idea up until now how it had affected me all those years ago, and so it sort of brought me back to that time mentally, which was, frankly, confusing and a little uncomfortable. But, by the time I realized that, I was 60% in and felt committed.

My biggest disappointment twenty years ago was in how childish Gwenhwyfar (Arthur's wife) is (likely because I'd read Queen of Camelot first, and Guinevere in that retelling is much stronger). My impression of Gwenhwyfar was the same this time around: chapters from her POV and discussions people have with her are painful because she is so painfully pious. In being utterly immovable about it all, her character is weakened so much that it is hard to take her seriously or to even feel as though her faith is genuine or as much of a comfort to her as she wants people to think it is--sort of in a "my lady doth protest too much" kind of way. To make matters worse, she is afraid of everything, though it seems to culminate in three main fears: wide, open spaces; being barren; anything remotely pagan. In trying to do "Gods' will," she continually creates self-fulfilling prophecies where she does the exact opposite. Her arguments with everyone, particularly the Merlin, about theology are tiresome and boring (especially when, both in the office of the Merlin, Taliesin and Kevin essentially agree with her!).

I'd say she is manipulative and point that out as a flaw, but all the women in this story are, in some way or another, as befitting their nature and situation--and, I can't say that this wouldn't be the case for actual women living in that era, whether in a fairytale retelling or real life. I think it's realistic for the time, and would be realistic even in this day and age when facing politics of that nature. I don't see how one could function or get anywhere in a society like that without it, regardless of the moral questions that behavior might evoke. And, where the men are concerned, they are all about as patronizing as the women are manipulative, even when they are trying to be supportive. So, this is also a book about how we view each other, the masks we wear around each other, and how we treat each other at the most basic male/female level, regardless of love or spirituality. It explores the duplicitous nature of humans and our motivations, whether in dealing with other humans or own selves.

Being older and with better critical thinking skills now, I realized this time around that, for this particular book to work, Gwenhwyfar had to be as annoying as she is because she counteracts Morgaine (Arthur's half sister, daughter to Igraine and niece to Morgause and Viviane, mother to Mordred). Thinking on it now, for as intelligent as Morgaine is, I don't think she ever (in all of her many lengthy diatribes and examinations of her conscience) sees the irony that she is basically as painfully pious and prejudiced about her own faith as Gwenhwyfar is about hers and she similarly, in her desire to do the "Goddess' will," creates self-fulfilling prophecies of her own. Despite their religious differences, Gwenhwyfar and Morgaine have a lot in common--they are two sides of the same coin, staunchly unwilling to see past their own interests, pain, or beliefs. I cannot be sure of Bradley's true intent, but, to me, this demonstrated the crux of how any organized religion corrupts and narrows its followers, particularly when it is fanatically followed without being tempered by common sense, logic, basic human decency, and personal responsibility.

All of the other characters seem to float in the middle, making at least some concession to the other side, either because they: used to be pagan and converted to Christianity, couldn't choose between the faiths so they are sort of pragmatically both, did not convert and so (being pagan) believe there is more than one God anyway, or they just don't care. In the "don't care" category, we have Morgause (Morgaine's aunt, sister to Igraine and Viviane, and great aunt and foster mother to Mordred), who thinks the theology is all nonsense. She is definitely not an angel, dabbling in dark magic and doing her best to be on the throne through her foster son, Mordred (Morgaine's son with Arthur, born through incest), but at least when Morgause is doing all this it's to serve her own ends--as selfish as that is, to me it was less selfish than acting as she perceived a higher power was "willing" her to do (as Gwenhwyfar and Morgaine did). She had the mind that was most her own in this story, which I appreciated.

Igraine (Morgaine's mother, Arthur's mother, and sister to Morgause and Viviane) leaves the story pretty early on, though it does start with her and Gorlois to set up Morgaine's childhood, gives us a little insight into Morgause, and explains how Arthur came to be and his relationship with Morgaine. Viviane (Morgaine's aunt and Lancelot's mother)... I was kind of surprised she was killed off so early, though I suppose it kind of had to happen for the story to progress as it did. I couldn't decide whether I liked her or not or felt she was altruistic--Morgaine complained so often that Viviane was using her for her own ends, but Morgaine did the same. I am sort of feeling "eh" about Viviane. Like Igraine, she was kind of forgettable to me.

I liked Raven and was sad when she died. I wish she had appeared more in these stories, honestly. Nimue (Lancelot's daughter with Elaine) I also really liked and wish her appearance hadn't been so limited. I also wasn't pleased with how she died. I know she was "under a spell" that she herself had wrought to bring Kevin down or whatever and it was a consequence of that, but it didn't seem in-character and honestly was a waste (I had wished she would become Lady of the Lake). Niniane, like Viviane, was also kind of forgettable. It is weird that both women who were Lady of the Lake didn't really make a big impact on me (I am not counting Morgaine in this because, as far as I know, she never officially became Lady of the Lake).

I don't really know that we're supposed to conclude anything specific from this book. Maybe it is simply an exploration of the deeper questions of life, and an acknowledgement that everyone's answers to these questions will be different because our lives, perspectives, experiences, and upbringings are all different.

One thing I found confusing and unexplained were the "so-and-so speaks" entries, which were more like diary entries than narrative. I don't really know why these had to be there and they brought me out of the story a little bit. I couldn't understand why what occurred in those sections couldn't just have been told through the normal narrative channel.

Lastly, I feel the need to note that I was confused about the ending. Maybe because it seemed to be so rushed for a book that spent almost 1000 pages ceaselessly discussing theology and heart matters. In the last chapters and epilogue, all of a sudden Arthur, Mordred, and Lancelot are all dead (and none from the war that was going on). Gwenhwyfar's death is only briefly mentioned in passing by a random nun at a convent that Morgaine visits to plant a sapling on Viviane's grave. I know Morgause was sad at being old and realizing she was old once Gareth dies and she couldn't seduce what's-in-name, but she doesn't actually die, she just goes back to Lothian in disgrace from what I could tell. We have no idea what happened from Arthur's perspective with regard to the aftermath of Mordred exposing Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar and Gareth's unfortunate death, though maybe that was because there were no women at court any longer through which to witness and tell that side of the story. Morgaine appears to have some sort of vision in the Christian chapel after planting the sapling, then goes... back to Avalon? Did she even become Lady of the Lake? Avalon "disappears into the mists," but I just felt like there was no closure over what actually happened to it or to Morgaine. The book seems to end with Morgause and Morgaine still alive, but I don't really get why or maybe I'm misinterpreting it and they did both die and I didn't read it that way. Either way, the ending was disappointing for me.

I think originally I had given this 4 stars based on what I remembered from first reading it twenty years ago. I am sort of still there, but really down to 3 1/2 stars. It's a sweeping tale that I think was carefully and thoughtfully done, but my heart didn't cling to it and make me want to come back to this world over and over again. I wish it were just a little less meandering and repetitive, and that the ending had been more definitive. ( )
1 vote wordcauldron | Oct 31, 2018 |
(46) I read 'The Once and Future King' a long time ago and re-read again as an adult. I have never read the epic Morte d'Arthur. So anyway - I come to this novel with a less than perfect knowledge of Arthurian legend and thus I am not sure how to judge this re-telling from the women's point of view. We have the story narrated by Arthur's mother, his sister, the legendary Morgan Le Fay - or in this book simply, Morgaine; also we hear from Gwenivere, and Arthur's Aunt Morgause. It is a looong book - 800+ large small font pages. But indeed, it is somewhat magical. One of the main themes is woman's depiction and role in modern religion versus an ancient idea of "Mother" Earth. The idea that powerful women are Goddesses vs sorceresses. Indeed, this conflict still resonates today as women try to break 'glass ceilings.' How many of us have been called - a 'bitch."

I am not sure a plot synopsis is really needed. But, this is the story of King Arthur - his birth, rise and fall: Told from the point of view of the women who frankly guided his actions and reactions. We are treated to the legendary Avalon - home of the Druids and priestesses of the cult of the Goddess. "Pagans" that were allowed to practice their own religion alongside Christianity in the best of times. We see how Arthur became king a la the Sword in the Stone. Lancelot and his love of Guinevere - its all in here. We also hear of the formation of Camelot and where the "Round Table" came from. Sir Pellinore's mythical dragon is here, as is the quest for the Holy Grail. And finally - the betrayal of Arthur by his son Mordred. (although Mordred is not a giant spider in this book ?? - where did I get that image from)

It is intricately woven and very readable, albeit occasionally tedious and repetitive. I am not necessarily compelled to read more Arthurian legend having finished, but I am definitely glad I read. I am fascinated by the Dark Ages post fall of the Roman Empire. For a lover of the Uhtred books and Sharon Kaye Penman's novels; honestly even for 'Game of Throne' fans - this is a must read. ( )
  jhowell | Sep 30, 2018 |
I have conflicted feels about this. I like that it is a re-imagining of Arthurian mythology. I like the world it sets up. It also drags like crazy and all of the characters are...difficult to love even though you pity them. And its author is "problematic" ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 242 (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 (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marion Zimmer Bradleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bralds, BraldtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herranen, PaulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ohl, ManfredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sartorius, HansTranslatorsecondary 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
Dedication
First words
Morgaine speaks...In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen.
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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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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)

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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)

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