Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
The portrayal of complex yet powerful women still remains a sensitive task in all forms of media, though not always from a lack of trying. Arthurian Legend is a gargantuan entity in the realm of folklore filled to the brim with political intrigue, epic quests, prophecy and magic but it has a firm view mainly on the characters who happen to be male- King Arthur, a youth of noble blood rises from the bowels of obscurity when he realises he is destined for great things, not the least of which being the one to unite Britain, same too can be said for his gallant knights who he also considers family. Camelot is the seat of royalty, gentry and chivalry, protecting the weak, spreading the word of the Lord and bringing those who would seek to oppose their values to heel, most of which may be traced to his villainous half sister and her son by him, Mordred. Yeah. Gross.
Zimmer Bradley takes what we commonly know and skews it, not by necessarily changing the outcome, but rather the people who which enact these actions.
Taking place through the point of view of Morgana (or Morgaine), we see a very different portrait being painted of a character who until this point was a villain without a motive other than revenge and irrational hatred. Morgaine is trained by the Lady of the Lake, her aunt, to become a priestess for the pagan belief that has until now been a part of the various territories of Britain. However, with the onset of Roman rule and Christianity, the mists of Avalon become thicker as Morgaine finds herself torn between a destiny of old and a new world that is beginning to burgeon over the horizon.
Lengthy and dense with research and prose, Bradley weaves a compelling tale of duty, destiny, desire, magic and ultimate destruction by telling the story of King Arthur through the eyes of the woman who could reluctantly help foster his destruction. Not because she despises him, but just like everybody else, because she is human. The traditional status quo is shaken up in such a way, it offers the reader valuable insight into what was otherwise a simple story about flights and fancies. While there is always a place for that, The Mists Of Avalon challenges perceptions and assumptions simply by looking at this epic from another angle and barring some dubious narrative choices, it does so with bold assurance, much like Morgaine and her kin.