No Arthurian library can be complete without
a copy of Bradley's "Mists". Perhaps no single book has influenced the
latest generation of Arthurian fans as hers did. I can remember reading each new book of
the Darkover series and the hidden excitement when the announcement was released that
Bradley was working on a story of Arthur.
I reread "Mists" as a preparation
for reading her new work "Lady of Avalon". Even after all the elapsed time, the
story still seemed fresh and the characters vibrant. Bradley's story is still one of
the best of the retellings of Malory's "Le Morte D'Arthur". It does have
that fantasy, almost science fiction, overlay of a great working of magic sending a realm
into the mists - a multi-dimensional world in which Avalon exists in the same space as
Glastonbury Tor but in another plane which is slowly drifting further from our own.
"Mists" is also the first of a new generation of books that told
the Arthurian legend through the eyes and words of secondary characters - in this case,
the women. Her characters are fully developed, each introduced and layered with emotions,
visual imagery, and motives. On a minor notes, sometimes too well. There were times when
I felt I had too much detail of their inner feelings, sliding down that slippery slope of
the balance between understanding a character through his or her thoughts and trying to
grasp them through their actions. Earlier works developed the plot but were stingy in
their characters, whereas, Bradley dealt with both with a strong emphasis on character.
Having moved on from the time of its introduction and added depth to my own
knowledge, I find the plot conception based as it is on Malory with an enhanced triple
Goddess storyline not up to the new genre of pseudo- realistic historical novels on Arthur;
but still a must-read. Her Morgaine and Gwenwyfar gave me new insights into the characters
and I remember clearly that when I read her story it was the first time that I pitied and
felt distaste for Arthur's sullied barren wife. There is a strong undercurrent of the
struggle between the worship of the Goddess and the new religion of the Christ which has
raised repeated discussion and bashing by those not following the story (remember that I
stated that her characters are rich and realistic, showing all the strengths and faults
we all have). God will always make herself known.
As the death of Arthur did not involve the main characters of Bradley's
story, the entire section of the Malorian theme of Arthur's death and voyage to Avalon
is glossed over in a few pages giving the feeling that Bradley rushed to finish the story,
even though a careful reading does not present quite the same sparcity of ending plot.
And it was the first story I remember where Arthur died without the promise of the future