Tag Archives: arthurian legend

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: An extremely long book, but that’s hardly surprising considering it covers the span of Arthurian Legend, from Ambrosius to Mordred and beyond. Though this tale is from the viewpoint of many of the women of the legend (Igraine, the Lady of the Lake, etc.), the primary characters are Morgaine (whom you probably know as Morgana or Morgan Le Fey), half-sister of Arthur, and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere), Arthur’s queen. Many of the names are unusually spelled: Lancelet (Lancelot), Caius (Kay), Ectorius (Ector)…and yet, along with all these crazy names, Taliesin’s successor as the Merlin is named Kevin Harper. The name sticks out awkwardly, making me wonder if Bradley was honoring a friend named Kevin. But all that aside, it’s still a good read. The length isn’t all that noticeable because the story does not drag much at all. I did get bored of the near-constant religious arguing, with each side mindlessly clinging to notions just as crazy as the other, but in the end things are more or less resolved peacefully. I liked Morgaine, for the most part. Gwenhwyfar was an obnoxious harpy and I couldn’t figure out why Lancelet and Arthur were so smitten with her, but whatever. This book is perhaps better for those who, like me, are already quite familiar with the legend, because the way things are worked into this version are often quite ingenious. All in all, I’m glad I read it, but it didn’t make a lasting impression on me.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King by T.H. White: I thought I’d read this for a class in high school, but I know now that I did not. This lengthy tome is actually four books in one. “The Sword in the Stone,” which inspired the Disney film of the same name, is the charming story of Arthur’s childhood with Sir Ector, Kay, Merlyn, and the rest. Easily my favorite of the four. Next is “The Queen of Air and Darkness,” which introduces the Gaelic Orkney clan, headed by Morgause. It’s probably the funniest book, between the silliness of King Pellinore’s lovesickness and the darker humor of the Orkney sons’ desperate attempts to get their mother’s attention. “The Ill-Made Knight” was my least favorite. It’s all about Lancelot and his unending angst. “The Candle in the Wind” more or less wraps up the Lancelot story, with a sometimes irritating amount of commentary on how much better everything and everyone was back in those days. I wish the story could have gone all the way through Arthur’s death and successor, but by and large I could see why this is considered one of the quintessential books on Arthurian Legend. I could spot the inspiration for many other works, from Excalibur to Monty Python’s Holy Grail. If you’re a fan of Arthur, I would definitely recommend reading. If you only have a passing interest, just read “The Sword in the Stone.” It’s delightful.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron

The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron: With the exception of Mary Stewart’s novels, almost none of the Arthurian canon documents Merlin’s life prior to advising King Vortigern as an adult. This novel attempts to fill that gap. Our story begins with Emrys and a woman who claims to be his mother washing onto the shores of Wales. Emrys remembers absolutely nothing before this event, though it is clear that he is very different from the other boys of the village. Slowly he discovers magical powers that both tantalize and terrify him. It’s a pleasant, fairly light read, with interesting characters and legends. There isn’t much in the way of unexpected plot twists, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Assorted Movie Reviews

I had a lot of downtime during a recent trip for work and managed to squeeze in several movies. These were watched over the course of a 24-hour workday on a 12″ laptop with tinny speakers and often in 15-minute spurts, so my movie viewing experience may not have been the same had I watched them straight through while lounging on my couch.

Ray: Jamie Foxx was excellent and the music was lovely, but I don’t think this is one I would watch again. Most biopics, despite often revealing some less-than-complimentary traits, tend to ultimately show their subjects in a favorable light. I came away from this one wondering if Ray Charles really was as self-absorbed and uncaring as this film portrayed him.

Super Troopers: Screwball state troopers against grouchy local cops in the battle for jurisdiction. I’d been meaning to see this one for a long time. I was not disappointed. It had a lot of crude and physical humor, but it did not rely on the embarrassment of its characters for the joke (like, say, most Ben Stiller movies). It was more akin to the first Police Academy or Ghostbusters, except not remotely appropriate for children. Very funny. I’m definitely going to watch this one again.

I, Robot: Will Smith plays the same cop he’s played a hundred times, only this one is trying to figure out whether or not robots are killing people, thus breaking the Three Laws of Robotics. I read the book ages ago and my memory of it is quite vague, but I did not recognize any of this aside from a couple names and the Three Laws. And you know, that’s fine. The story was fun, I couldn’t predict the ending too far in advance, and the effects (especially the robots themselves) were awesome. There was one random bit that baffled me: why was Lake Michigan dried up? It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the plot. Maybe they just wanted to add something to the backdrop to further demonstrate that this was supposed to happen in the future – it was pretty neat-looking, after all.

King Arthur: I like interpretations of the Arthurian legend. As it is a legend (as opposed to a novel or well-documented historical event), I don’t believe there is one true version. So my complaints about this movie have nothing to do with its supposed deviation from the story of Arthur and his knights of the round table. Here Arthur is a Roman fighting the Saxons in Britain one last time before he and his knights get to go home. This film was slow and often confusing. People spoke like they were spouting poetry instead of dialogue (which is okay to a point but this killed the realism) and too many actions were completely unmotivated. For instance, Arthur finds Guinevere because he randomly decides to bust into a building on somebody else’s property. What? Oh well, if you like insanely long battle sequences, neat costumes, and pretty scenery, you’ll like this one.

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