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on September 27, 1999
Marion may have left us (September 25, 1999), but she will live forever through this one book.
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on August 18, 1999
This is one of my favorite books! The characters felt so real!Everyone should read this book.
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on July 20, 2003
I read "The Mists of Avalon" a number of years ago and was, to say the least, underwhelmed. But I certainly understand why it became a best-seller: it was a thinly-veiled radical feminist, neo-pagan, anti-Christian screed. And I'm saying this as an agnostic, almost atheistic, Jewish woman who is certainly not anti-feminist. I'm very glad to see that a number of other readers -- though too small a fraction of the 700+ reviewers here -- share my opinion.
Others have mentioned the factual arguments against "Mists": that by the time Arthur supposedly lived, Britain was already mostly Christian; that the "matriarchy" allegedly embraced by everyone in Europe before those eeeeevil Xtians came along has been greatly exaggerated by feminist scholars; and that paganism had its own shortcomings, notably human sacrifice. Everyone knows that the Church burned millions of "witches" in the Middle Ages; fewer know that the pagan Celts often locked their human sacrifices in giant wicker cages and burned them to death therein.
I don't recall all that much about the female protagonists Morgaine, Morgause, Igraine, and Viviane, except that there was a fair amount of whining and other uncommendable behavior. I do recall, however, Bradley's malicious trashing of her male characters and also Guinevere ("Gwenhwyfar," which is the original Welsh spelling). Arthur, as someone else mentioned, is [so weak] that you wonder how such a character might have ruled a lemonade stand, let alone a feud-rent nation of disparate clans and tribes. Lancelot has about as much depth as a male Calvin Klein underwear model. Gwenhwyfar's father is the typical insensitive, domineering patriarch. And so on and so forth.
The only man I seem to remember NOT getting savaged was Merlin -- and I'm hardly commending MZB's treatment of him, as he was reduced to nothing more than the doddering living representative of the Horned God with whom the priestesses mated during the fertility festivals. From Bradley's book, you'd never know of the awe-inspiring figure Merlin has traditionally cut as sorceror, sage, and protector of the infant Arthur.
But the worst-treated character by far in "Mists" is Gwenhwyfar, who is little but stereotype: that of the naïve, narrow-minded, puritanical, high-strung, and ultimately deceitful Christian woman. Nobility and royalty are of course no guarantee of anyone's character, but highborn women of Britain and Europe (at least until Victorian times) were generally raised to command large corps of servants, oversee their many and varied duties, take charge when the men were away at war, and certainly pitch in with the work themselves. You'd think that a woman who in legend was queen for some 20 years, and whose country was in her day at the outer reaches of civilization, would have more resourcefulness, practicality, spine, and shrewdness, even if she wasn't an admirable character.
Other readers have taken Bradley to task for the incest scenes, not realizing that Arthur's coupling with his half-sister (Morgause and Morgaine are sometimes merged into one character, as in Mary Stewart's books) that produces Mordred is central to the legend. Totally foreign to it, however, is the ménage-à-trois between Arthur, Gwenhwyfar, and Lancelot, justified in their minds by Arthur's inability to impregnate his wife. Though that scene mercifully stops short before Bradley could get into any graphic detail, to me it symbolizes everything that's wrong with this novel: the legend's best-known characters, already repeatedly depicted as lily-livered, are now painted as amoral hypocrites, just so Bradley can make the other female characters into heroines for the age of political correctness.
And, like just about any book that runs for 800-odd pages and six decades, "Mists" is too damn long and rambling -- it's the "Shogun" or "War and Peace" of Arthurian fantasy. I wonder if Bradley's editor(s) simply trusted her work based on her reputation and didn't bother to examine it too closely, perhaps fearing that such a superstar of fantasy wouldn't have brooked the severe editing job the book badly needed, and just might have taken it to another publishing house out of pique.
Given all the five-star reviews, I doubt my opinion will sway any of its fans among the teeny pagan set, or among adult women who loved it *because* of its polemics. So let me reiterate what others have suggested: that they read other retellings of the story such as Gillian Bradshaw's "In Winter's Shadow" (told from Gwenhwyfar's viewpoint); Mary Stewart's Arthurian tetralogy; Diana L. Paxson's own series on the subject, as well as her novel "The White Raven" (a reworking of the Tristan and Iseult romance narrated by Iseult's handmaiden); and, finally, a book by a (gasp!) male author, Parke Godwin, called "Firelord," which is from Arthur's perspective but is highly sympathetic to "Morgana," as he calls her.
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on August 14, 2001
This a disappointing book. It focuses way too much of its energy on the female participents. Without the male characters there isn't a legend to write about. I love strong women as much as the next guy, but the entire story isn't about women. I also don't like all the focus on the battle between the mother goddess and Christianity. By the time Arthur came on the scene the people of Britain had embrassed Christianity. Also I don't think there is any evidence to support a mother goddess cult in Britain. Also Miss Bradley portrays the Druids as these nice smart guys. In reality they were just as pagan as everyone else. She doesn't even touch on the fact that there is evidence that the Druids performed human sacrifices. The book is also way to sappy. It almost reads like a really long soap opera. Other than that it was a good book.
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on June 20, 2001
Rates as one of my top five books -- this is one of the few that I will ever re-read.
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on April 27, 1999
As a teenager, I loved this book. Now I am 30, and have this to say:
- much too long - bad ending - demonizing one's opponents: the hallmark of the bad writer
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on August 12, 1999
This book was so great, i couldn't put it down. I reread the book 3 times
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on June 18, 2016
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on May 3, 1999
this was the best book i have ever read. it is a wonderful story
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on May 10, 1998
Simply the best retelling of King Arthur's tale I have ever read.
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