Friday, February 08, 2013

Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is the last book from my Female Sci-fi/Fantasy authors list from last year. I think it was an appropriate book to end this list on. The book is definitely on an epic scale, covering the entire life of Morgaine, half sister to King Arthur. This is a King Arthur tale, but told through the eyes of the women surrounding Arthur.

I have to wonder if a better Christian than I would have a different take on this book. It comes across, at least for most of the book,  as very negative on Christianity. There was a lot of conflict in the book. The conflict between fathers and sons, the conflict between Christianity and the Old Religion, between mothers and daughters, between brothers, between sister and brother.

My most recent exposure to the Arthur legend is through the BBC series "Merlin." There are many characters in common between "Merlin" and The Mists of Avalon. It is interesting how different a character can seem based on the point of view from which the story is told. Morgana in "Merlin" is very unlikable, but Morgaine in The Mists of Avalon is more sympathetic. I would say that a lot of their actions are similar, but we are more familiar with Morgaine's motivations. Morgaine may seem to not always be driven by pure service to the Goddess, she does believe that her actions will serve the Goddess.

"Merlin" does not really have the Christian vs. Old Religion dynamic. Uther has banned the Old Religion in Camelot, but because he believes magic corrupts and is always used for evil. However, it doesn't seem that the Old Religion has been replaced by a strong reliance on Christianity in the "Merlin" version of Camelot. In The Mists of Avalon, there are many different people that are pushing Britain, and Arthur toward being a wholly Christian country. The person with the biggest influence with Arthur is Gwenhyfar. She was raised Christian and believes in it completely. Although, at times her push to a stronger link with Christianity seems a bit of jealousy of Arthur's tie to Morgaine.  Gwen feels she should be the biggest influence on Arthur, she feels she often has to take a backseat to Arthurs companions (knights) and his advisers, including the Merlin of Britain. Arthur is torn between wanting to please his wife and wanting to uphold the vow he made to protect Avalon as well as the Christian people of Britain.

The Mists of Avalon was definitely worth reading, and the feminine point of view was nice. Even though all the books on this list were written by women, they were not all so strongly feminist in their point of view. I am glad to have come across this list of women Sci-fi/Fantasy authors, and to have been introduced to new authors and new sub-sets of Sci-fi/Fantasy than I have read before. I think there are quite a few more modern female authors in this genre that will find themselves on this list in the future.

I'm going to give The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, 4 stars.