The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Cannonball Read IV: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

By DragonDreamsJen | Book Reviews | November 9, 2012 | Comments ()


Twenty years ago, Marion Zimmer Bradley released her innovative and ground breaking novel, The Mists of Avalon, forever changing the way readers experience the legend of King Arthur. Unlike Sir Thomas Malory, Mark Twain, T.H. White and other male authors, Bradley weaves an epic tale from the point of view of the women in the story. The novel includes most well-loved characters from the saga, all the while giving things a fresh perspective and unique twist thanks to the central narrative by Arthur's sister Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan le Fay or Morgaine, Queen of the Fairies.

The movie adaptation, created in 2001, barely skims the surface of this lush and detailed novel. Bradley had an intuitive sense of how to weave facts about life in the middle ages, Celtic mythology and the tension between Druids and the early church around believable characters with very human weaknesses. In an era when women had little say in their lives and destinies, often treated more like property that partners by their spouses, The Mists of Avalon portrays a group of empowered and powerful women who push the boundaries of what is acceptable and proper.

Though the story spans more than Arthur's full lifetime, the book never seems to drag. It flows like a wonderful river of words; sometimes quickly and sometimes meanderingly. The pathos and ending of the tale are never in question and yet the reader is swept along, marveling at the new vistas offered by Bradley's imagination. While the reader may wish there could be another ending to the legend, when the cover closes on the book, it is very hard not to sigh in contentment and satisfaction at a tale so well told.

The Mists of Avalon should be on the Bucket List of every fantasy enthusiast. If you haven't read it in a few years, make time this Cannonball Read challenge to pull it out and fall in love with reading all over again.

This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of dragondreamsjen’s reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • J. A. Lively

    When i read this book, i came on with high expectations. However, half the way through i stopped. Arthur was without charisma or authority. How did this dithering boy ever gain the throne? Most of the major characters ...gah, i just easnt given a reason to care. Avalon mattered not. Who caref if Camelot rose or fell? This Camelot was a shadow to me. I still prefer Mary Stewart and her Merlin trilogy.

  • MissAmynae

    Love this book. I actually really liked the miniseries- mostly because it was brilliantly cast.

  • IgorsMistress

    My copy of "Mists of Avalon" is from 1982. 30 years ago, not 20.

  • Leaf

    I don't think I made it past 10 pages. If I recall, the language was way too flowery or archaic for me to tolerate.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Even though this is not my favorite version of the Arthur legend - because I like a strong Gwenhyfar - this is a really important version, really readable, and mostly enjoyable. Gwen & Lancelot are not particularly likeable, but everyone is very human.

  • LadyBuggy

    I loved this book, in fact I loved the whole series. I read it in my early 20's, and it really spoke to me at a time when I was trying to figure out who I was. I've always been fascinated by the Arthurian Legend, but this is by far my favorite version (I also like the Mary Stewart version a lot). The movie was ok, and I suggest seeing it if you enjoyed the book. It was On Demand on the TNT network recently so I just watched it again a few weeks ago.

  • BWeaves

    I'll have to put this on my list.

    Also, (RE: Header pic) one should never hold a sharp pointy object by the blade.

  • Nyltiak

    I love this book. I read it for the first time when I was 11. (I don't think my mom realized there were porn-y scenes), and I'm on my 3rd copy. I destroyed 2 paperbacks with the re-reading and scooped up the hardback when it came out. I haven't re-read it in a bit, so I'll have to do that again soon.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I actually made it about 1/3 through the book, because I thought it was a drag. Nothing happened, except for rather explicit sex sequences (why do books written by women always turn into porn?).

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yeah, that Virginia Woolf really knew how to sex it up. We all know what "to the ilghthouse" is code for.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Okay, let me rephrase that question: Why do pop novels written by women so often turn into porn? The worst offender I ever read is Jean M. Auel.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I feel that this is true of a lot of pop novels, and a lot of fantasy in general. I'm pretty sure I've heard a great deal of commenting on George RR Martin's sexification. And Parke Godwin's Arthur books are explicit, while female-written Arthurian books by Persia Woolley, Rosamund Miles, Mary Stewart and Joan Wolf aren't.

    OR: Men get the sexy fantasy art; women get the sexy fantasy writing.

    OR: This particular book deals with women, sexuality, religion & repression - so she got explicit on it. I don't remember the other books in her Avalon series being as explicit.

  • BiblioGlow

    Jean Auel is the worst offender of a lot of things. For instance, common sense. (They're so bad, and yet I must finish the series. Why? WHY?) My only explanation is that she sold her soul for Clan of the Cave Bear and after that she was on her own.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Oh I remember that miniseries. You're right - it didn't hold a candle to the book. I think I need to re-read.

  • baxlala

    I read this for the first time this year, having seen the miniseries back whenever it was it came out (I didn't remember much about it, other than Carol Hathaway and Agent Vaughn were in it)...I much preferred the book but am definitely interested in watching the miniseries again even though I'm pretty sure it was terrible. I don't even care because MICHAEL VARTAN.

  • latvianlady

    About 18 years ago, this was my favorite book -- ever. At the time, Enya was really popular, so of course I had that on as a soundtrack while reading the book. I just recently re-"read" it (so listened to the audio book -- who has time for reading?), and even though I don't find it quite so earth-shattering as when I was 20-something, it holds up pretty well. (The cable-TV version sucked, IMHO; someone should do a feature film trilogy of it... paging Peter Jackson....)

  • baxlala

    I would totally watch that trilogy.

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