This year marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Marion Zimmer Bradley's massively popular Arthurian fantasy The Mists of Avalon. Alas, I was unable to read this iconic novel when it was first released, due to being about two years old at the time.
A decade later, however, I found The Mists of Avalon and fell head over heels. I was a twelve-year-old Catholic girl. My best friend's mom called my mom to get her okay before lending me this novel, and no wonder. Sibling incest! Pagan orgies around bonfires! Extramarital sex before a husband's very eyes, nay, at his request! I read it—all 876 pages—several times during the next couple years.
I was not alone: Mists has stayed in print for three decades and inspired passionate devotion. It has also triggered plenty of ironic eye-rolling. Now that I'm not twelve anymore, I find myself deeply sympathetic to both reactions.
For those of you who haven't read the book or whose memories of it have receded into the appropriately misty past, here's a quick overview: Mists retells the legend of King Arthur, considering the familiar plot from the perspectives of its female characters. nstead of placing kings, knights, and war at the heart of the story, Mists fleshes out Morgaine (in this version, Arthur's sister), Gwenhwyfar (aka Guinevere), and three sisters: Igraine (Morgaine and Arthur's mother), Morgause (an intelligent and sexually liberated queen), and Vivian (high priestess of Avalon).
This is a long book with a complicated plot. Essentially, though, it's about queens and priestesses, mothers and sisters and aunts, and sex and birth and death.