Not since reading War and Peace have I ever encountered a book so full of absolutely fucking miserable characters. And then the plot just follows along to making everyone even more miserable at every turn.
So if you don’t know, Mists of Avalon is a retelling of the Arthurian legend through the eyes of various women:
- Morgaine (Priestess of Avalon), half sister of Arthur
- Morgause, Arthur’s aunt
- Viviane (the Lady of the Lake), Arthur’s aunt
- Gwenhwyfar, Arthur’s wife
- Igraine, Arthur’s mother
Quite early on you start just disliking them all. All the Priestesses of Avalon are manipulative and awful. Like Viviane plans for Morgaine and Arthur to be part of the ‘Great Marriage’ where they unknowingly have sex with each other (incest is a bit of a theme, which in retrospect of the accusations around Marion Zimmer Bradley should have been a bit of a warning).
It’s all in the name of Avalon and the Goddess but holy crap, I was more sympathetic towards the whole Christian takeover…until Gwenhwyfar arrives. Her piousness is so fucking trying. I blame her for so much of the fucking up of everything – she’s awful. AWFUL.
“Arthur, do this thing that will alienate all these people, but will PLEASE ME AS YOUR GOOD, CHRISTIAN, PIOUS WIFE (who wants to shag your best friend, really badly.)”
And it’s all just a bit repetitive. After Arthur takes over, all the knights come around every Pentecost. Then they always ask who is going to play the goddamn harp. But everyone who plays the harp is a bit hated by someone else, so it’s always the same argument. And then hideously tedious theological arguments between Christianity and the Goddess. OMG! Have this conversation a couple times but every time the same characters talk to each other…SO GRATING.
There’s just the same thing happening over and over and over again. The same arguments, the same insecurities, the same scheming. The only thing that changes is that people get older.
But overall, it’s just so unbelievably depressing. It was frankly a relief by about page 900 when everyone starts dying or getting killed. At least they couldn’t make people miserable anymore. The misery keeps up right until the end as well. Lancelet finally runs away with Gwenhwyfar (but not before killing a bunch of knights) but then she’s all ‘I should probably just to to a convent.’
Holy shit Gwenhwyfar, you could have done that about 40 years earlier and saved a lot of people a lot of fucking misery. Though, Arthur, Lancelet and Gwenhwyfar have a bit of a threesome (and it’s half-assedly indicated that basically the boys are a bit gay).
This book basically need a ruthless editor, be about 800 pages shorter, be less incesty (I haven’t even gone into all the other incesty bits), much less boring and must less fucking miserable.
Only read this book if you are too happy in your life. Even then, read a shorter book.
It gets -5/5. If people think this is a feminist novel, no wonder some people think feminists are miserable. SO MISERABLE.