The Mists of Avalon

Paperback | May 12, 1987

byMarion Zimmer Bradley

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Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come....

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Arthur sits on the throne of Britain, and it is his task to maintain the uneasy balance between the old ways and the new. But although the knights of Camelot owe their first allegiance to Arthur, the king himself is held in the sway of several powerful women, each of whom is determined to bend his authority toward her own ends. In The ...

From the Publisher

A Literary Guild Featured AlternateHere is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come....

From the Jacket

A Literary Guild Featured AlternateHere is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come....

Marion Zimmer Bradley began her distinguished book publishing career in 1961 with her first novel, The Door Through Space. The following year she wrote the first book in her hugely popular Darkover series, Sword of Aldones, which soon became a Hugo Award nominee. Bradley's novel The Forbidden Tower was also nominated for a Hugo, and Th...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:912 pages, 9.3 × 6.1 × 1.6 inPublished:May 12, 1987Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345350499

ISBN - 13:9780345350497

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Reviews

Rated out of 5 by from a great twist on the classic authurian myth, Marion Zimmer Bradley does a great job at humanizing the mythical figures of Arthur, Morgan le Fay, Merlin and the Lady of the Lake, a big book, but a deinate must read
Date published: 2012-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Legends One of my favorite books from my teenage years. The best retelling of Arthurian legend. If you enjoy legends you must read this book.
Date published: 2009-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fanastic! Many friends have recommended this book to me over the years and I can see why. What a wonderfully woven story. It is superbly written with rich characters and a page turning plot that kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning. I've read Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy and loved that as well; but Marion Zimmer Bradley takes us into the previously untold female side of the Arthurian legend. It is beautifully crafted and weaves in many of the often times overlooked aspects of the legend, such as dragon slaying and quest for the Grail. I will read this many times and suggested that readers purchase the hardcover edition.
Date published: 2009-11-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not as great as the claims You know, I tried. I really tried. I gave this book three weeks of my life and read over 500 pages, and it was still a horrible chore. I got as far as Queen Gwen's visit to her hometown, and couldn't read beyond it. There was nothing keeping me interested any longer. Morgaine was the only redeeming character in this whole novel, and even then there were times when reading her parts of the story were so frustrating and boring that I had to take a break. While Bradley is without a doubt a fantastic writer, I get the impression that she doesn't like her characters very much, and that she likes the story even less. And if an author doesn't care about her own story, well, I can hardly be expected to do the same. I actually tried, really tried, and just could not make it. This one is totally a pass for me. I will never pick it up again.
Date published: 2009-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Classic This book will stand the test of time. Written from the point of view by the women of King Author's realm, it's a new spin on an old tale from characters you THOUGHT you knew! Even after 15 years it is the book I recommend the most.
Date published: 2009-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the wait! This book was given to me as a present over 15 years ago, and for some reason I held onto it though I never picked it up to read... I finally just finished reading it, and I'm so glad I hung onto it for all this time! Beautifully written, it is an intriguing and unique perspective of the Arthurian legends. Character development is fantastic and MZB takes you through several generations of key players, creating ever more depth in a compelling plot. The continual contrasting of paganism and Christianity is fascinating, and the feministic perspective is refreshing without being over-zealous... If you enjoy fantasy with both mythical and historical approaches, if you value character development and beautiful prose, this is a book I highly recommend!
Date published: 2009-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The perfect novel for medieval fiction lovers Finally, the female entourage of Arthur's kingdom get to tell their story! Her characters are so familiar and yet you get to know them in a completely different light. I absolutely loved the perspective she offered up in this work.
Date published: 2008-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Camelot like you've never seen before! This is a re-telling of the famous Camelot story with a Pagan approach to the events. If you are open to looking at a story you think you know from a different angle you may like this book. The people who are the "bad" guys in the original story are presented quite differently in this version. It's a wonderful story, well-structured plot, characters you can care about and and ending that works.
Date published: 2008-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from land of avalon This book changed my life. I've read it four times and each time I emerge with new insights.
Date published: 2006-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Takes me away! I never herd of the story before until I saw the movie and I stumbled by it when I went to chapters. After reading it I loved it so much I had been so attached to the characters in the story. The characters grew on me so well that the ending toched me in a lot of ways. Though I will not spoil it for you, mainly because there would be a lot to tell. I would have to say this is a must read book. Warning though it is really long, but it is worth every page.
Date published: 2006-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take a look through the "mists"!! For anyone who has ever wondered what the "real" story behind King Arthur is, this is one of the best accounts I've ever read!! Right up there with all the heavy hitters of Fantasy writing, Marion Zimmer Bradley is at her descriptive best with this book. I've read it twice so far, and I'm sure it will be well read in years to come! Take a chance on this one if you want the woman's perspective of King Arthur!
Date published: 2006-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from nothing like it... This book gives a totally different view from the known story of Camelot. MZB is a master story teller. She reweaves what we all knew into something even more mystical than the original tale. I was absolutely lost in this book. I read it at a cottage with the mists of the lake rising up in early September, a glass of white wine at my side. This book is more of an escape than any other I've ever read.
Date published: 2006-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Feminist Revisioning This book is among the first of the great feminist revisionings that occur in modern literatures (like Atwood's The Penelopiad, Maguire's Wicked, and others). This novel retells the captivating story of the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table from the point of view of the women. Bradley's women are desiring subjects who act to save their principles. It expresses the conflict between Christianity and Paganism, and how patriarchy is connected with monotheism.
Date published: 2006-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just Brilliant! Time stands still literally, from beginning to end. This novel will take you in so deeply it feels as though you are a living and breathing character within the book itself. Each page takes you away, so much so, that it is just about impossible to put it down. And even when you do, it walks with you until you can pick it up again. Enthralling, captivating and heart wrenching. Every woman should read this story it's worth every word of its 900 pages.
Date published: 2006-06-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from From the other side This book should be mandatory reading! Marion Zimmer Bradley is able to capture the essence and possibilities of what may have actually happened in the court of KIng Arthur and unite them, telling a whimsical story of what it might have been like for a woman in that time. A definite thriller!
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One word...Amazing I have ALWAYS loved the legends of King Arthur! Morgan le fey was always my favorite character, even though she was bascially protrayed as evil and the bad guy. In this book , Morgan le fey (Morgianne) is pretty much the main charcter. Mists is the story of the women who lived within the realm of Arthur...and the story it tells is one much deeper, much darker and more compassionate then the one you've heard before. The characters are much more complex, and there's times where you love them and hate them...but they're real; their pain is real, their fears and their love is real. In the end, it even has you questioning your own version of faith and if it can be as unforgiving as those in the book.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely amazing I had come across this book while looking for a good King Arthur read, but I had not expected this. This book is so beautiful; it's characters are so alive and full of real emotion. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, or who loves a good story. This book deserves more than five stars. If you were in a situation where you were only allowed to purchase one book in your entire life, choose this one. It can be read over and over again, and still be as magical as it was the first time.
Date published: 2005-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A life experience. Marion Zimmer Bradley retells this story from an angle any woman can appreciate. The more of her books about this time period that you read, the more you understand the happenings that build up to the dissapearence of the mysterious Avalon from the world we know. A wonderful book, and experience everyong should have in their life.
Date published: 2004-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rediscover your imagination ...and do yourself a huge favour. The Mists of Avalon is Bradley's masterpiece, and is rightly one of the more beloved Arthurian novels of our time. You might look at the book and marvel at its size and wonder how you could get through it, but from my experience, when that last page turns, you will wish there was so much more to read! Discover a new world and become a part of Avalon!
Date published: 2003-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Teens Can Read It To I was finding it really hard to pick out a good book to read because sometimes the lower teen books aren't enough to fille me passion. So one day I was at the library and for some reason I just grabbed this book. Before I knew it I couldn't put it down; I was hooked. The characters are so well describe it's like you could be them and the mystery, conspiracy, plotting and fight for power is what really made this book good for me. So if your a teen looking for a challenging or good read you should definatly consider this!
Date published: 2003-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If only I could give more than 5 stars... I am not quite sure how I should begin this review. I suppose I should first mention how I came to hear of “The Mists of Avalon;” a couple years ago I read that there was going to be a TV miniseries based on the book, which I had not yet read. “The Mists of Avalon” was one of those books I always *meant* to read, but never got around to. Now, since I don’t have cable I missed out on the miniseries much to my disappointment. However, as fate would have it, a friend of mine bought the compiled DVD version of it for me! I watched it and said “Okay dude, you are SO reading this book!” And I did. In fact, I just finished the last chapter not a half hour ago. I put the book down and cried. The tears just would not stop. There are no words to describe this book, nor the true talent and beauty that Marion Zimmer Bradley has captured for now and all time in this classic work. Instantly this book is my favorite and, I fear, it has spoiled me form ever reading others that deal with the Legends of King Arthur. Oh, and on a side-note; I am a neo-Pagan by choice of religion and found that the rights and practices-- although presented in a *fictional* context-- were extremely well researched and handled with all due respect. My advice to anyone who is interested in history/religion/GREAT writing? Buy- This- Book... NOW!
Date published: 2003-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from they seemed so real.. I have recently re-read the book and seeing this online, felt a little compelled to write smthg. Anything to make someone pick this book up and give it a go. The thing about the book that makes it so great is the fact that the strength of its story and, most importantly, the characters are so strong that it seems to resonate within your mind and fool it somewhat into thinking and believing that these women and men were, maybe..just maybe.. actual flesh and blood, not just mere characters. That instead of being ink on paper, they were people who were capable of feeling emotions as strongly as we do. Books like these are so rare, which makes the word 'great', which i used to describe the book, such an understatement. The fact that such a strongly built and intelligent storyline is there to support the characters raises the book to heights ive only dreamt about as an avid book devourer. Seriously, as if that wasnt enough, the book also leaves your brain working overtime, in a good way, co
Date published: 2003-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mists Rock Although I am only 16, and I have only seen the great new miniseries made from this book, I am compelled to read it. the story is beautifully interpreted on television and it is a shame that we have lost a person like Marion Zimmer Bradely from the world.
Date published: 2002-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have never been more inspired.... I saw this book in my school library and I've always liked Arthurian tales, so I picked it. I was kind of intimidated by the size of it, but I finished it and I bought for myself along with the prequel to it! It is too excellent to discribe.
Date published: 2001-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magic to an old legend I never thought the "old and boring legend of King Arthur" that we constantly analyse in school could become so interesting. What seemed like just a bunch of unrealistic events suddenly makes sense after reading this novel. Everything fits together. This is the type of book that makes you want to continue reading it non-stop, though sometimes I couldn't even look at it because I was so mad at a caracter or another. This has been my favorite book ever since I've read the first page. It's simply awesome!!!
Date published: 2001-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW Did you ever know that women put king Aurther on the throne. Well read this book and you will understand what I mean. This book will make you feel empowered as a woman. It also is a new story on an old legand. Told though the eyes of a woman. You come to have a new respect for Aurther's sister.This is a must read for people of all ages and if you have daughters that are coming into their own than it makes a great gift.
Date published: 2001-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best I've ever read!!! This book is a wonderful depiction of Arthurian times. It has everything to make it a classic, and over the years, I have kept coming back to it. Each time I read it is like the first, as there are nuances in the storyline that are not picked up the first - or the fiftieth - time. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel. Men and women will both enjoy this book, and it would make a wonderful gift for any adult - young or old.
Date published: 2000-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Epic re-visited This book looks at the Arthurian legend from new and previously unexplored perspectives- the impact of the old religions (which were both male & female)on the monarchy, influences and rivalries of the common people. The author successfully draws the reader into the personal, political and mystical time she has woven. This is a book you hurry to finish and are disappointed when you do because the tale and the spell are complete.
Date published: 2000-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from King Arthur Legend by women I think that the entire series (The Forest House, Lady of Avalon and Mists of Avalon) are absolutely excellent. When stories are told about the past, they are often from the male point of view and can depict women in a negative light. The author does an amazing job of telling the King Arthur legend from the perspective of all the women in his life in the Mists of Avalon. These novels are beautifully written and the Mists of Avalon is the best out of the three. A must-read!
Date published: 2000-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Into the Mists Love, hate. Death and glory, morals and religion. These are only some of the aspects that bind this novel. Not just another Arthurian tale, it's gripping, and allows readers to be carried into the plot of the novel. The author entwines readers in a mystical journey into "The Mists of Avalon", introducing us to unique characters that leave readers thirsty for more. Her tale is set from the point of view of the women behind King Arthur, and their struggle for a better world. They are divided by religion, some prefering the old ways to the new ways of Christianity. There are lovers and traitors that grip the imagination until the very last page. Characters engage in moving arguments, keen on surviving custom change. There are fantastic battles in this novel, but the author refuses to deliver her female characters into a life in the kitchen. This is truly a masterpeice, luring readers into events that will remain with them forever. This book proves to be both poetic and spiritual as characters strive to keep the balance between old an new from erupting. The author's choice of female leads delivers role models. This book is truly a journey into the mists.
Date published: 2000-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comparable to Malory Originally when I read Sir Thomas Malory's Le Mort D'Arthur, I was enthralled by the detail, the plot line and the indepth chronology of the book, but after reading the Mists of Avalon, I feel misrepresented in the original. Women hoisted a large influence and hold in medieval times, even if men are not willing to admit it and I recommend this book whole hartedly to anyone who wishes to know the truth. It was well researched and deserves to be read.
Date published: 2000-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Epic Tale of Avalon A mucst read for any Avalon or King Aurthor fan...I had to read this book for school and have been hooked on finding out everything I can about Avalon, King Aurthor and anything to do with the old Celtic ways. If you love to read (Cause there is lots of that with this book) and love Arthian lore, as I now do..Deffinetly give this book a try! You'll either love or hate Marion's interpritation of the old Arthor legend! She gives a whole new look into the legend, I tell you that mcuh!!!
Date published: 2000-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a magnificent perspective marion zimmer bradley creates a masterpiece. it's the tale of king arthur told by the women's point of view! gives all her characters a life and paersonality, you can really identify with the characters. a magnificent novel for a king arthur fan. you can't put the book down. wounderful!!!
Date published: 2000-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not Just For Women! Bradley makes the magic believable! This was definitely one of the most engaging, most enjoyable books I've ever read. With fascinating characters, fabulous story, and a unique point of view, this book presents a new insight into the Arthurian legend. Be prepared for total immersion, though. Neither my wife nor I could attend to the quotidian round while we were reading Mists of Avalon. (We were fortunate to have had only one copy of the book; had we read it simultaneously the kids would have starved.)This book has a very high pleasure/price ratio (i.e. it's well worth buying, even without a discount).
Date published: 2000-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring!! This book deserves no less than a five from anyone who's ever read it! It is a beautiful novel that weaves the reader in and out of the ever enchanting druid faith to pious christianism. Arthur is seen in a way that he's never been seen: through the eyes of his women. May the goddess bless all those who read it!
Date published: 2000-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Where fairytales become honest... Reading the Mists of Avalon will change your point of view on life. Truly a work of art from Marion Zimmer Bradley, it takes the fabled rule of Arthur and turns it into something more than a myth, something believable. Told in third person omniscient, with portions told from Morgaine's (Morgan le Fay) point of view to explain certain things, giving the impression that Morgaine is telling the story in first person, but Ms. Bradley changes to third to give the reader a more complete, if complex, story. However the most astonishing thing about this book is that no character was evil or good for that sake. There was no villian, for all the characters were like real people, doing things for their own reasons, perhaps being seen as benevolent or malicious to others but not just being insanely evil to fill the antagonist's shoes, nor the perfect goodness that abounds in fairytales...Cinderella was good person...this is why this is more than fiction. The research into the realms of Arthur and Avalon, with Goddess worshippers trying to survive in a changing world that is striving to be only Christian, is remarkable. Warning: don't expect a light tale. This book takes you in and doesn't let you go, even after you finish it..the first time or the times after...and it's a good thing it doesn't because you don't want it to.
Date published: 2000-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thank You Ms.Bradley The Mists of Avalon is a definant "must read". Its layers upon layers of engulfing story lure you deep into its pages. From begining to end, you are pushed to read on further and further, never wanting it to end.I have read this epic novel four times, and each time I find myself emotionally bonded to the strong female characters Ms.Bradley has created. Never has a book so so enthralled me. My only regret is that I never wrote to Marion Zimmer Bradley and thanked her for such an awe-inspiring book. The world lost a great talent when she died. Here I thank you Ms.Bradley
Date published: 2000-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Arthurian Ladies Tell Their Tale This epic tale spans 3 generations, beginning with Arthur's mother, and following King Arthur's tale to it's bitter end. King Arhtur's tale is retold from the point of view of the women folk who populate it.. They are preistesses, wives, and mothers who struggle against their roels and the society in which they live. The priestesses must fight against the patriarchal society which is beginning to overtake the formerly tolerant one in which they lived, and the children of the new order must fight against the women whom they see as pagan and unnatural. Marion Zimmer Bradley tells a tale in which gender and religion struggle enhances the always wonderful Arthurian tradition.
Date published: 2000-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Masterpiece! By far the best book I read about the arthurian legend. There are as many versions to this old tale as people who told it, and yet this one manages to be fresh in its perspective and fascinating in its scope and depth!
Date published: 2000-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing book This book was, I think, Marion Zimmer Bradley's best. All the characters were so real that I felt like I was actually there with them. If you haven't read it, you're missing out on one of the best books ever!
Date published: 2000-06-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Every teenage girl should read this This is a book that every teenage girl should read. It is a chance to learn about a way of life completely unknown to us. The deapth of each character allows you to feel their hopes, dreams and heartache.
Date published: 2000-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! This book simply put, is awesome. It puts the whole story of king Author in a whole different perspective, I had not known prior to this that women even featured in his story. It draws you the reader into the drama, I even saw my self as the Godess (now who would have ever 'accused' me of that). It definately is a must read.
Date published: 2000-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BEST BOOK EVER!!!! This is the best book I have ever read. From the very first word to the last, you become enthralled. The characters speak to you and you can feel their pain. I become so into it that after an event that Gwenifar (incorrect spelling) caused (the banner incident) I had to put the book away because I was sooo pissed at her!!!! If you really want to have the best read of your life..this book is it!
Date published: 2000-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mists of Avalon This is an excellent read for those of you who like the legends of King Arthur. It gives an insight into the beliefs of that time from the viewpoint of the women in Arthur's life; the pagan and christian ideas of that time. You can certainly get right into the location and believe it happened. Some might take insult with the beliefs of the time and how the author onnects the two with one God, but I was totally enthralled with her descriptions of the time ... she made it most believable. I am set to read more of her books!
Date published: 2000-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mists of Avalon If you have been searching for a book that truly puts you into character, this is it. Every aspect that can be included in a story has been thoughtfully added to this one, hence the creation of the best book, and series, I have ever read. Even after putting it down, which was near impossible, I still felt like I was in the story. All day I would be so excited to get home and read more of it, just so I could see what happened next. Though I haven't read any of her previous works, I would have to say that Marion Zimmer Bradley is at the top of my "What to Read Next" list. Definitely worth reading several times over.
Date published: 2000-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knights of the Round Table Anyone? This is one of my all-time favourite books. It's a magical story of knights and ladies, warlocks and witches. Bradley usually writes fantasy novels, so this is quite a difference for her, but oh is it good!! Please read the book, and be prepared to be enthralled with the story and with the people in it.
Date published: 1999-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mists of Avalon This is quite easily one of the best books that I have ever read. Bradley takes a well-known tale and makes it her own, using the women's point of view. I found her take on King Arthur refreshing and a delight to read. People who enjoyed Stephen R. Lawhead's Arthur trilogy will also enjoy this.
Date published: 1999-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mists of Avalon The third novel in an epic saga of powerful, complicated and admirable women. Bradley weaves a story of love, betrayal and pagan magic. Beautifully written, this version of Camelot is particularly fascinating as it is seen through the eyes of the women in King Arthur's life. Although I'm not a big fan of Bradley, friends and family are getting this for Christmas.
Date published: 1999-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IT CHANGED MY LIFE! The Mist of Avalon, by novelist Marion Zimmer Bradley, is the classic Arthurian legend, told from the womens' point-of-view. It is set in Britain, where struggles between the worship of the Goddess and the new religion of Christianity are taking place. Classic characters like Arthur, Sir Lancelet (Lancelot), Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) and Morgaine of the Faeries (Morgan le Fay) all take on a new light in this epic novel of love, hate, friendship and betrayal!
Date published: 1999-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Mists of Avalon The third novel in an epic saga of powerful, complicated and admirable women. Bradley weaves a story of love, betrayal and pagan magic. Beautifully written, this version of Camelot is particularly fascinating as it comes through the eyes of the women. If you are looking for knights in less-than- shining armour, pick this up.
Date published: 1999-03-19

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Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Ladyof Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland. Asshe stared into the fogs and mists, she wondered how she wouldever know when the night and day were of equal length, so thatshe could keep the Feast of the New Year. This year the springstorms had been unusually violent; night and day the crash of the sea had resounded over the castle until no man or woman within could sleep, and even the hounds whimpered mournfully.Tintagel . . . there were still those who believed the castle had beenraised, on the crags at the far end of the long causeway into the sea,by the magic of the ancient folk of Ys. Duke Gorlois laughed at this andsaid that if he had any of their magic, he would have used it to keepthe sea from encroaching, year by year, upon the shoreline. In the fouryears since she had come here as Gorlois's bride, Igraine had seen land,good land, crumble into the Cornish sea. Long arms of black rock, sharpand craggy, extended into the ocean from the coast. When the sun shone,it could be fair and brilliant, the sky and water as brilliant as thejewels Gorlois had heaped on her on the day when she told him she borehis first child. But Igraine had never liked wearing them. The jewelwhich hung now at her throat had been given her in Avalon: a moonstonewhich sometimes reflected the blue brilliance of sky and sea; but in thefog, today, even the jewel looked shadowed.In the fog, sounds carried a long way. It seemed to Igraine, as shestood looking from the causeway back toward the mainland, that she couldhear footfalls of horses and mules, and the sound of voices-humanvoices, here in isolated Tintagel, where nothing lived but goats andsheep, and the herdsmen and their dogs, and the ladies of the castlewith a few serving women and a few old men to guard them.Slowly, Igraine turned and went back toward the castle. As always,standing in its shadow, she felt dwarfed by the loom of these ancientstones at the end of the long causeway which stretched into the sea. Theherdsmen believed that the castle had been built by the Ancient Onesfrom the lost lands of Lyonnesse and Ys; on a clear day, so thefishermen said, their old castles could be seen far out under the water.But to Igraine they looked like towers of rock, ancient mountains andhills drowned by the ever encroaching sea that nibbled away, even now,at the very crags below the castle. Here at the end of the world, wherethe sea ate endlessly at the land, it was easy to believe in drownedlands to the west; there were tales of a great fire mountain which hadexploded, far to the south, and engulfed a great land there. Igrainenever knew whether she believed those tales or not.Yes; surely she could hear voices in the fog. It could not be savageraiders from over the sea, or from the wild shores of Erin. The time waslong past when she needed to startle at a strange sound or a shadow. Itwas not her husband, the Duke; he was far away to the North, fightingSaxons at the side of Ambrosius Aurelianus, High King of Britain; hewould have sent word if he intended to return.And she need not fear. If the riders were hostile, the guards andsoldiers in the fort at the landward end of the causeway, stationedthere by Duke Gorlois to guard his wife and child, would have stoppedthem. It would take an army to cut through them. And who would send anarmy against Tintagel?There was a time-Igraine remembered without bitterness, moving slowlyinto the castle yard-when she would have known who rode toward hercastle. The thought held little sadness, now. Since Morgaine's birth sheno longer even wept for her home. And Gorlois was kind to her. He hadsoothed her through her early fear and hatred, had given her jewels andbeautiful things, trophies of war, had surrounded her with ladies towait upon her, and treated her always as his equal, except in councilsof war. She could have asked no more, unless she had married a man ofthe Tribes. And in this she had been given no choice. A daughter of theHoly Isle must do as was best for her people, whether it meant going todeath in sacrifice, or laying down her maidenhood in the SacredMarriage, or marrying where it was thought meet to cement alliances;this Igraine had done, marrying a Romanized Duke of Cornwall, a citizenwho lived, even though Rome was gone from all of Britain, in Romanfashion.She shrugged the cloak from her shoulders; inside the court it waswarmer, out of the biting wind. And there, as the fog swirled andcleared, for a moment a figure stood before her, materialized out of thefog and mist: her half-sister, Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, the Ladyof the Holy Isle."Sister!" The words wavered, and Igraine knew she had not cried themaloud, but only whispered, her hands flying to her breast. "Do I trulysee you here?"The face was reproachful, and the words seemed to blow away in the soundof the wind beyond the walls.Have you given up the Sight, Igraine? Of your free will?Stung by the injustice of that, Igraine retorted, "It was you whodecreed that I must marry Gorlois . . ." but the form of her sister hadwavered into shadows, was not there, had never been there. Igraineblinked; the brief apparition was gone. She pulled the cloak around herbody, for she was cold, ice cold; she knew the vision had drawn itsforce from the warmth and life of her own body. She thought, I didn'tknow I could still see in that way, I was sure I could not . . . andthen she shivered, knowing that Father Columba would consider this thework of the Devil, and she should confess it to him. True, here at theend of the world the priests were lax, but an unconfessed vision wouldsurely be treated as a thing unholy.She frowned; why should she treat a visit from her own sister as thework of the Devil? Father Columba could say what he wished; perhaps hisGod was wiser than he was. Which, Igraine thought, suppressing a giggle,would not be very difficult. Perhaps Father Columba had become a priestof Christ because no college of Druids would have had a man so stupidamong their ranks. The Christ God seemed not to care whether a priestwas stupid or not, so long as he could mumble their mass, and read andwrite a little. She, Igraine herself, had more clerkly skills thanFather Columba, and spoke better Latin when she wished. Igraine did notthink of herself as well educated; she had not had the hardihood tostudy the deeper wisdom of the Old Religion, or to go into the Mysteriesany further than was absolutely necessary for a daughter of the HolyIsle. Nevertheless, although she was ignorant in any Temple of theMysteries, she could pass among the Romanized barbarians as awell-educated lady.In the small room off the court where there was sun on fine days, heryounger sister, Morgause, thirteen years old and budding, wearing aloose house robe of undyed wool and her old frowsy cloak about hershoulders, was spinning listlessly with a drop spindle, taking up heruneven yarn on a wobbly reel. On the floor by the fire, Morgaine wasrolling an old spindle around for a ball, watching the erratic patternsthe uneven cylinder made, knocking it this way and that with chubbyfingers."Haven't I done enough spinning?" Morgause complained. "My fingers ache!Why must I spin, spin, spin all the time, as if I were a waiting-woman?""Every lady must learn to spin," rebuked Igraine as she knew she oughtto do, "and your thread is a disgrace, now thick, now thin. . . . Yourfingers will lose their weariness as you accustom them to the work.Aching fingers are a sign that you have been lazy, since they are nothardened to their task." She took the reel and spindle from Morgause andtwirled it with careless ease; the uneven yarn, under her experiencedfingers, smoothed out into a thread of perfectly even thickness. "Look,one could weave this yarn without snagging the shuttle . . ." andsuddenly she tired of behaving as she ought. "But you may put thespindle away now; guests will be here before midafternoon."Morgause stared at her. "I heard nothing," she said, "nor any rider witha message!""That does not surprise me," Igraine said, "for there was no rider. Itwas a Sending. Viviane is upon her way here, and the Merlin is withher." She had not known that last until she said it. "So you may takeMorgaine to her nurse, and go and put on your holiday robe, the one dyedwith saffron."Morgause put away the spindle with alacrity, but paused to stare atIgraine. "My saffron gown? For my sister?"Igraine corrected her, sharply. "Not for our sister, Morgause, but forthe Lady of the Holy Isle, and for the Messenger of the Gods."Morgause looked down at the patterned floor. She was a tall, sturdygirl, just beginning to lengthen and ripen into womanhood; her thickhair was reddish like Igraine's own, and there were splotches offreckles on her skin, no matter how carefully she soaked it inbuttermilk and begged the herbwife for washes and simples for it.Already at thirteen she was as tall as Igraine, and someday would betaller. She picked up Morgaine with an ill grace and carried her away.Igraine called after her, "Tell Nurse to put a holiday gown on thechild, and then you may bring her down; Viviane has not seen her."Morgause said something ill-tempered to the effect that she didn't seewhy a great priestess would want to see a brat, but she said it underher breath so that Igraine had an excuse to ignore it.Up the narrow stairs, her own chamber was cold; no fires were lightedthere except in the dead of winter. While Gorlois was away, she sharedthe bed with her waiting-woman Gwennis, and his prolonged absence gaveher an excuse to have Morgaine in her bed at night. Sometimes Morgauseslept there too, sharing the fur coverlets against the bitter cold. Thebig marriage bed, canopied, curtained against draughts, was more thanbig enough for three women and a child.Gwen, who was old, was drowsing in a corner, and Igraine forbore to wakeher, stripping off her workaday dress of undyed wool and hurrying on herfine gown, laced at the neck with a silk ribbon Gorlois had brought heras a fairing from Londinium. She put on her fingers some little silverrings she had had since she was a little girl . . . they would go onlyon her two smallest fingers, now . . . and hung a necklace of amberwhich Gorlois had given her about her neck. The gown was dyed rustcolor, and had an overtunic of green. She found her carven horn comb,and began to pull it through her hair, sitting on a bench and workingher comb patiently through the tangles. From another room she heard aloud yelling and decided that Morgaine was having her hair combed by hernurse and didn't like it. The yelling stopped suddenly, and she supposedthat Morgaine had been slapped into silence; or perhaps, as sometimeshappened when Morgause was in a good temper, Morgause had taken over thecombing herself, with her clever, patient fingers. This was how Igraineknew that her young sister could spin well enough when she chose, herhands were so clever at everything else-at combing, at carding, atmaking Yule pies.Igraine braided her hair, clasped it on top of her head with a goldclasp, and put her good gold brooch into the fold of her cloak. Shelooked at herself in the old bronze mirror her sister Viviane had givenher at her wedding, brought, they said, all the way from Rome. She knew,lacing her gown, that her breasts were once again as they had beenbefore: Morgaine had been weaned a year now, and they were only a littlesofter and heavier. She knew she had her old slimness back, for she hadbeen married in this gown, and now the laces were not strained even alittle.Gorlois, when he returned, would expect to take her to his bed again.Last time he had seen her, Morgaine had still been at the breast, and hehad yielded to her plea that she might continue to suckle the childthrough the summer season when so many little children died. She knew hewas discontented because the baby had not been the son he craved-theseRomans counted their lineage through the male line, rather than sensiblythrough the mother; it was silly, for how could any man ever knowprecisely who had fathered any woman's child? Of course, these Romansmade a great matter of worrying over who lay with their women, andlocked them up and spied on them. Not that Igraine needed watching; oneman was bad enough, who would want others who might be worse?But even though he was eager for a son, Gorlois had been indulgent,letting her have Morgaine in her bed and continue to suckle her, evenkeeping away from her and lying nights with her dressing-woman Ettarr sothat she would not get with child again and lose her milk. He too knewhow many children died if they were weaned before they could chew meatand hard bread. Children fed on gruel were sickly, and often there wasno goat's milk in the summer, even if they would drink it. Children fedon cow's or mare's milk often got the vomit and died, or suffered withthe flux in their bowels and died. So he had left Morgaine at herbreast, thus postponing the son he wanted for at least another year anda half. For that at least she would always be grateful to him, and notmurmur, however quickly he got her with child now.Ettarr had gotten herself a belly from that visit, and gone aboutpreening herself; would she be the one to have a son by the Duke ofCornwall? Igraine had ignored the girl; Gorlois had other bastard sons,one of whom was with him now, in the camp of the war duke, Uther. ButEttarr had fallen sick and miscarried, and Igraine had enough intuitionnot to ask Gwen why she looked so pleased at the event. Old Gwen knewtoo much of herbs for Igraine's perfect peace of mind. Some day, sheresolved, I will make her tell me exactly what she put into Ettarr'sbeer.She went down to the kitchen, her long skirts trailing on the stonesteps. Morgause was there, in her finest gown, and she had put Morgaineinto a holiday dress, dyed saffron, so that the child looked dark as aPict. Igraine picked her up, holding her with pleasure. Small, dark,delicately made, so small-boned it was like handling a little soft bird.How had that child come by her looks? She herself and Morgause were talland red-haired, earth-colored like all of the Tribeswomen, and Gorlois,though dark, was Roman, tall and lean and aquiline; hardened from yearsof battle against the Saxons, too filled with his Roman dignity to showmuch tenderness to a young wife, and with nothing but indifference forthe daughter who came in the place of the son she should have borne him.But, Igraine reminded herself, these Roman men considered it theirdivine right to have power of life and death over their children. Therewere many, Christians or no, who would have demanded that a daughter notbe reared, so that their wives might be free at once to give them a son.Gorlois had been good to her, he had let her keep her daughter. Perhaps,though she did not give him credit for much imagination, he knew howshe, a woman of the Tribes, felt about a daughter.While she was giving orders for the entertainment of guests, for wine tobe brought up from the cellars and for the roasting of meat-not rabbit,but good mutton from the last slaughtering-she heard the squawk andflutter of frightened hens in the court and knew that the riders hadcome across the causeway. The servants looked frightened, but most ofthem had become resigned to the knowledge that the mistress had theSight. She had pretended it, using clever guesses and a few tricks; itwas just as well that they should remain in awe of her. Now she thought,Maybe Viviane is right, maybe I still have it. Maybe I only believed itwas gone-because in those months before Morgaine was born, I felt soweak and powerless. Now I have come back to myself. My mother was agreat priestess till the day of her death, though she bore sev- eralchildren.But, her mind answered her, her mother had borne those children infreedom, as a Tribeswoman should, to such fathers as she chose, not as aslave to some Roman whose customs gave him power over women andchildren. Impatiently, she dismissed such thoughts; did it matterwhether she had the Sight or only seemed to have it, if it kept herservants properly in order?She went slowly out to the courtyard, which Gorlois still liked to callthe atrium, though it was nothing like the villa where he had liveduntil Ambrosius made him Duke of Cornwall. She found the ridersdismounting, and her eyes went at once to the only woman among them, awoman smaller than herself and no longer young, wearing a man's tunicand woolen breeches, and muffled in cloaks and shawls. Across thecourtyard their eyes met in welcome, but Igraine went dutifully and bentbefore the tall, slender old man who was dismounting from a raw-bonedmule. He wore the blue robes of a bard, and a harp was slung across hisshoulder.

Bookclub Guide

1. Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion  The Mists of Avalon revolves around a number of dualities: male/ female, Christianity/druidism, duty/desire. How are these duali-ties represented in the book? Can you think of others that were presented? 2.  How does the book strive to challenge common stereotypes? How does it reinforce them? 3.  Is Gwenhwyfar a sympathetic character? In your opinion, does Marion Zimmer Bradley treat physical beauty in a positive, negative, or neutral manner? Explain. 4.  How responsible is Arthur for allowing the spread of Christianity and ultimate disappearance of Avalon? Was he simply being an honorable husband to Gwenhwyfar? Did you find the Arthur, Lancelet, Gwenhwyfar tryst disturbing? Although Arthur was an indisputably potent leader, can he, in the end, be deemed an effective one? 5.  It seemed in several instances that Morgaine disappeared when she was most needed. Was she ultimately successful in represent-ing the Goddess? Would you say that she was a victim to her fate or that she ultimately rose to meet it? What parallels can you draw between Morgaine’s life and Igraine’s? Between Morgaine and Viviane? 6.  The Merlin seems to play an ambiguous role in the story. Do you agree with this statement? In your opinion, was he motivated more by his faith, or by pride and ambition? 7.  Throughout history, did the spread of Christianity really lead to a diminishing of tolerance? Does the Goddess have a place in today’s world? Do you think that Christianity ever held woman as the principal of evil? 8.  What symbolism, if any, would you apply to the dragon slain by Lancelet? What is the symbolism behind Excalibur? The Grail? The Holy Thorn? 9.  At the end of Mists, did you feel that the Goddess had truly been absorbed into Christianity?10.  How has Mists changed your perception or understanding of the Arthurian legend? How has it changed your perception of women’s roles in the making (and telling) of history?

From Our Editors

Arthur sits on the throne of Britain, and it is his task to maintain the uneasy balance between the old ways and the new. But although the knights of Camelot owe their first allegiance to Arthur, the king himself is held in the sway of several powerful women, each of whom is determined to bend his authority toward her own ends. In The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley spins a familiar tale, but lends it a refreshing quality... for it is not the story of Gawaine, Arthur, or Launcelot. Instead, it is the story of Gwenhwyfar, Viviane and Morgaine - the women relegated to the shadows by legend and history, but who ply their invisible influence nevertheless.

Editorial Reviews

"[A] monumental reimagining of the Arthurian legends . . . Reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience. . . . An impressive achievement."--The New York Times Book Review"Marion Zimmer Bradley has brilliantly and innovatively turned the myth inside out. . . . add[ing] a whole new dimension to our mythic history."--San Francisco Chronicle"Gripping . . . Superbly realized . . . A worthy addition to almost a thousand years of Arthurian tradition."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer