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The Mists of Avalon Paperback – May 12, 1987

1,238 customer reviews
Book 1 of 7 in the Avalon Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Even readers who don't normally enjoy Arthurian legends will love this version, a retelling from the point of view of the women behind the throne. Morgaine (more commonly known as Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh spelling of Guinevere) struggle for power, using Arthur as a way to score points and promote their respective worldviews. The Mists of Avalon's Camelot politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the island-nation of Britain; Christianity vs. Faery, and God vs. Goddess are dominant themes.

Young and old alike will enjoy this magical Arthurian reinvention by science fiction and fantasy veteran Marion Zimmer Bradley. --Bonnie Bouman


"[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

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 876 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1st edition (May 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345350499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345350497
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,238 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marion Eleanor Zimmer was born in Albany, NY, on June 3, 1930, and married Robert Alden Bradley in 1949. Mrs. Bradley received her B.A. in 1964 from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, then did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1965-67.

She was a science fiction/fantasy fan from her middle teens. She had written as long as she could remember, but wrote only for school magazines and fanzines until 1952, when she sold her first professional short story to VORTEX SCIENCE FICTION. She wrote everything from science fiction to Gothics, but is probably best known for her Darkover novels and for her Arthurian novel, THE MISTS OF AVALON.

In addition to her novels, Mrs. Bradley edited magazines, amateur and professional, including Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine, which she started in 1988. She also edited an annual anthology called SWORD AND SORCERESS, which is still published annually under the title MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY'S SWORD AND SORCERESS.

She died in Berkeley, California on September 25, 1999, four days after suffering a major heart attack.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

212 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Mists of Avalon" is one of my favorite versions of the Arthurian legend. I first read the novel in the early 1990s, right after its publication. I reread it recently and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this extraordinary novel the second time around. I turned the pages more slowly and took more time to savor Ms. Bradley's excellent narrative and fresh version of the legendary saga of the rise and fall of Camelot. Her take on the classic characters gives them new depth and dimension. She tells her tale from a feminine perspective, and while the King and knights of Camelot dwell on war, battles and keeping their golden city and realm safe, along with focusing on chivalric honor, the women have different priorities and concerns.

The tale is told from the points of view of the much maligned Morgaine, (Morgana Le Fey), Priestess of Avalon and Gwenhwyfar, (Gwynivere), Christian princess and future queen of Camelot. Although most of the events of the traditional Arthurian legend are presented here, it is extremely interesting how the tale, told by men, changes when viewed through the eyes and experiences of a woman. This is also the important story of the political and religious conflict between the new Christianity and the "old ways" of goddess worship. Believers of each religion seek to control the throne, but ultimately Christianity ascends to be the organized religion of the land. Since Morgaine is a Druid High Priestess, it would explain why she received such a bad rap in Christian civilization. The reader also views other famous female characters from a different vantage point, including Igraine, Morgaine's and Arthur's mother,
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151 of 165 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
As I sense many of those who posted a review are women, I felt compelled to offer my thoughts.
A little preface: I read this book when I was in my early 30's. I am a college-educated professional, and a married heterosexual. I generally read non-fiction: political and military history and mountaineering literature. This book came up in a discussion with my wife, a published writer, who has read it several times and claimed it was one of her all-time favorites. As this is not slight praise from a woman who thinks Shakespeare was a lighweight compared to John Dunne, and actually argue the point!
So I picked up this book and read the first page. Quite a mistake. Three days later I finished this is not so small work having spent nearly every available non-working moment enthralled in this modern masterpiece. Simply put, it is very well written. It is a great story and it is well told. There is romance, fantasy, religion, war, politics, intrigue, and other elements to keep your attention.
I pity those who are so heavily invested in the "accuracy" of the Arthurian legend as to miss the beauty of this book. Doubly so for those who are too religiously dogmatic.
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79 of 86 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had forgotten my love for reading after going through so many books that didn't hold my attention. The Mists of Avalon reminded me of my love for a good book and got me hooked on Marion Zimmer Bradley. This book is a perfect blend of romance, action, magic and just plain creativity that binds you to the story and leaves you begging for more. This book tells the Arthurian legend through the eyes of the women around King Arthur's life. It tells the story of the strength of Morgain (his sister), Igraine (his mother) and Guenivere (his wife). It wonderfully portrays the bravery of these women in such a brutal time, without taking away the romance and insecurity's women feel. Beautiful book. Be sure to read the Forest House and Lady of the Lake also, which take place before The Mists of Avalon although Bradley wrote them afterward. I started with the Mists of Avalon and had no trouble at all. Marion Zimmer Bradley was a genious. I'm terribly gratefull to her for giving me something to refresh my mind.
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Many of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books are rather fluffy fantasies, fun and light. This is not the case with the mystical, magical "The Mists of Avalon." This spendid book is a retelling of the King Arthur legend from the point of view of the women involved, principally, Morgaine, King Arthur's half-sister and Priestess of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar, the Christian princess and future Queen of Camelot.
Although "The Mists of Avalon" has been criticized as being a "feminist" book, I don't think this criticism holds up. Yes, the author chose to focus on the conflicts and emotions of the women involved, but their gender is far less important in the book than is their religion. Morgaine, as a Druid and Priestess of the Goddess, is struggling to keep her dying religion alive against the growth of Christianity and Gwenhwyfar.
The main character in "The Mists of Avalon" is Morgaine and we follow her from childhood to her rise as a priestess on the mystical Isle of Avalon, the home of the druids of the Old Religion, the religion of the Goddess. Avalon, as can be deduced from the book's title, is surrounded by swirling, protective mists that cause it to be invisibe to all but the initiated. Morgaine's life, down to its very core, is shaped both by her desire to serve the Goddess and by her despair at seeing the Old Religion being tossed aside in favor of Christianity, by royalty and the common people alike.
The book also focuses on Gwenhwyfar, and we are privy to her first meeting with Arthur when, as an innocent child, she crosses through the mists of Avalon to the other side. As Queen, she is a guilt-ridden figure who turns to Christianity in her desire to bear a child and begs Arthur to do the same, thus bringing about the fall of Camelot.
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