The Mists of Avalon

By Marion Zimmer Bradley,

Book cover of The Mists of Avalon

Book description

Here is the tragic tale of the rise and fall of Camelot - but seen through the eyes of Camelot's women: The devout Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's Queen; Vivane, High priestess of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake; above all, Morgaine, possessor of the sight, the wise, the wise-woman fated to…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked The Mists of Avalon as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Before the appearance of ‘franchise’ novels set in an Arthurian world, and even before the genre of ‘fantasy writing’ had established itself, the American writer Marion Zimmer Bradley published one of the most remarkable novels about Arthurian Britain and its cast of characters.

Well researched and deeply imbued with the colours of a powerfully-imagined world, the novel refocuses the events of Arthur’s life from the point of view of the women who surround him, especially Morgaine (Morgan le Fay) and Igraine, Arthur’s mother.

This was the first feminist retelling of the Arthurian story, one in which Arthur was no longer…

From Helen's list on sensible stories about King Arthur.

I read The Mists of Avalon while on a backpacking trip in Hawaii. Thus the mists described so vividly in the novel are forever intertwined with the morning mists on the north shore of Kauai. 

Atmospheric and compelling are the first two words that come to mind in describing this novel. Stereotypes about women, such as Morgan le Fay (usually portrayed as a one-dimensional villainess) are completely dismantled.

Instead all of Bradley’s characters, both male and female, are as real as flesh and blood people, caught in a tumultuous time period.

Like Dances with Wolves, The Mists of Avalon spoke…

A spellbinding book that brings to life the legend of King Arthur, told from the perspective of the women in his majestic reign, such as the Lady of the Lake Viviane, the fairy Morgane la Fée, and Arthur’s mother, Queen Igraine. A captivating portrayal of the fantasy realm of fairies, Druids, medieval paganism, and the conflict with emerging Christianity. This book profoundly influenced me as a young reader and subsequent writer of fantasy and paranormal romance.

Magic is real. I fell in love with the way Zimmer-Bradley took the King Arthur legend and wove a full and beautiful story, richly told, with varied and complex characters. Told from Morgaine’s (Morgan Le Fey) point of view, the reader gets a different take from the usual Arthur stories. Arthur and Lancelet are not necessarily heroes, nor is Gwenhwyfar the immaculate, benevolent queen. I love Morgaine as the narrator and main character. She gains my sympathy, my ire on her behalf. The thread which binds my recommendations are the pagan vs. Christian elements, the everyday struggle between the two.…

From Sheila's list on pagans, saints, and love.

What an audacious book – a retelling of the King Arthur legend from the women’s point of view. Part history, part fantasy, this book rang true to me in its portrayal of the power of the divine feminine. The female characters own their sexuality and the strength inherent to being a woman. I loved getting deliciously lost in Bradley’s imagination of the mystical skills of our ancient mothers. To this day, I wonder if she might have been writing about reality, not fantasy, and it is our present generation that has lost touch with our astonishing female powers.

From Leslie's list on to make you love being a woman.

If Pillars of the Earth got me into historical fiction set in the middle ages, then The Mists of Avalon is what hooked me for fantasy set in that period. I adored this feminist retelling of King Arthur’s legends – the women, who are in the background and rather one-dimensional in the original, get to be the story-creators here. There are certainly familiar scenes of swords and quests, but there’s also a lot more magic and a lot more mystery and intrigue.

From Alex's list on reimagine the Middle Ages.

This ambitious and magical doorstopper of a book carries a big energy that has never left me. What I most love is the way the complex feminine is captured, especially through the character Morgaine. She has been vilified in Arthurian stories but in this book, we know her as a deeply intelligent, sensitive, powerful, and vulnerable woman, doing the best she can to hold to her pagan faith through her glories as well as her falls into shadow. Her yearning for love and true passion, and bereftness when she can’t get it, spoke to me as a woman. There was…

From Melanie's list on with spiritual depth.

This was the first book I read that retold a myth from a feminine perspective. Past versions of the Arthurian legend vilified Morgaine - she was a strong powerful priestess, after all. Her voice was strong on the page and made a lasting impression. The novel also explores the transition from Pagan / Druid worship to Christianity. I love exploring the space within transitions and not surprising, this theme is reflected in my work.   

From Karen's list on rediscover women’s power.

No list of King Arthur books would be complete without this one. It’s a long read, to be sure, but it makes up for it by also being very, very horny. More importantly, The Mists of Avalon is the only account of the Arthurian Legend that centers the female characters in the story, attempting to explain the choices they make instead of painting them as irrational harpies the way many male authors do. The other strength of this book, which isn’t discussed as often, is its attention to historical accuracy. You’ll find yourself learning a lot about medieval food, dress,…

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