The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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The Mists of Avalon is the last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Woohoo–I’m done!  I think that I had read one other King Arthur tale sometime in the dim past, but I didn’t remember too much about it.  So with this book, I felt like I was learning most of the tale for the first time.

Premise:

This book tells the King Arthur saga from the vantage point of the women who were involved in the story.  A very welcome and interesting perspective!  It starts with Viviane (The Lady), Merlin, Uther, and Igraine.  From there the story continues through the next two generations–to Gwydion, Galahad, etc.  It’s not only a story about King Arthur and his court, but about Druids and Christians vying for dominance in Britain.  There is so much that happens in this 800+ page book that I couldn’t comment on all of it even if I wanted to.  (And trust me, I do not want to.)

My thoughts:

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tough book to read.  Between the somewhat slow start, the sometimes relaxed pace of the narrative, the formal language, and the sheer volume of pages, it is a challenge to get through.  I’d say that definitely once you’re about a third of the way in, you’re going to be so caught up in the drama, intrigue and soap opera-esqueness of the book that you’ll want to keep going.  You will feel like it’s never going to end, though.  There’s just no getting past that.

I loved the plot.  It was very complex and even though I new the gist of the story, I was still gobbling it up to see what would happen next.  The cast of characters was also superb.  There were so many–all with different personalities, loyalties, motivation.  You’re bound to find at least a couple of characters whom you can identify with.  Personally, I loved Morgaine (despite her many mistakes and imperfections), and despised Gwenhwyfar.  And there were no clear-cut lines between Druid and Christian.  Each side had its share of heroes, heretics, bigots and pigheadedness.

You should also know that the discussion of religion plays a very large part in this book.  It’s a book about people, yes, but it’s also just as much about religion.  The beliefs of Christians and Druids are compared, criticized, dissected, scoffed at.  If you’re easily offended by religious criticisms or don’t want to read about religion, then this is not the book for you.  In the end, I think the author arrives at a fair and equitable conclusion on the issue of religion as it relates to the King Arthur story.

The Mists of Avalon is a story full of the things of life–love, lust, hatred, tragedy, pride, ambition, heartbreak, sacrifice, birth and death, good and evil.  It’s a story that anybody can relate to because life’s most important concerns don’t change over time.

I would recommend this book to adults because of the pervasive sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of sexual scenes
  • Some violence
  • Talk & criticism of religion (Druid & Christian)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper

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What can I say about The Dark is Rising? I like it.  It’s good.  Read it.  Nah, just kidding.  If you don’t want to know any details before reading the book, stop reading now.

For reals now, this book is a sweeping tale essentially about the fight between light and dark, good and evil.  Really that’s it in a nutshell.  More specifically it’s an Arthurian tale of magic and destiny, history and man’s free choice.  The main players are Will, the last of the Old Ones; Merriman, or Merlin; the Drew children–Simon, Jane and Barney; The Rider; Bran, Arthur’s son; and many other characters, both good and bad.  The storyline is very broad and difficult to condense into a shortened form without sounding a bit like the recitation of a boring timeline.  I’ll try to sum it up in short order, at least telling how the characters relate to one another.

The Old Ones are charged with promoting the cause of the Light (good), and pushing back the Dark (evil) when it rises, to make sure the Dark doesn’t become a dominant force.  Will is the last of the Old Ones to be born, and it is up to him to complete a quest to find the magical items needed to permanently vanquish the Dark.  The Drew children are instrumental in helping complete the quest.  Merriman helps guide Will in his various tasks.  The Rider is their main foe, though many others work with him to hinder the cause of the Light.  I don’t want to say a lot about the storyline itself, because if you’ve never read it, it’s nice to make discoveries of your own.

The Dark is Rising can be firmly classified as fantasy, but it’s what I think of as old-school fantasy.  Instead of a vastly different universe housing totally foreign people and places, the story takes place on the good old planet earth that you’re sitting on right now.  It’s fantasy very much rooted in reality.  The first two books, Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising, are my favorites.  Greenwitch gets a little stranger, and the last two books, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree are really out-there.  It can be difficult to follow the last two books because of the sheer amount of imagery that is not rooted in reality.  Your imagination really gets a work-out.

So, I do recommend the books.  They’re entertaining, the characters are interesting, the plot has plenty of twists and turns, and the writing is well done.  Also, if you have kids, they would be  great read-aloud books to share with them.

There are some scary parts, but I don’t think it’s too scary for elementary-age kids.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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