I am honestly having a hard time reviewing this book. This is such a long book and there is so much to say, and yet I can't seem to explain the way II am honestly having a hard time reviewing this book. This is such a long book and there is so much to say, and yet I can't seem to explain the way I feel in words. Reading this book is an experience, and this review is my sadly fragmented attempt at conveying that experience to you.
The Mists of Avalon is a re-telling of Arthurian legend told from the perspective of the Arthurian women. The main narrator is Morgaine, more commonly known as Morgan Le Fey, and the story spans her entire lifetime. Through her and other narrators including her mother Ivaine, Gwenhwyfar (aka Guinevere), Morgause, and Vivaine, we learn the story of the rise and fall of Camelot, and of the individual lives and choices that shaped an era.
You may remember Morgan Le Fay from the original myth as being an evil sorceress and Arthur's enemy. In fact, the original myth has very clear good and bad guys. This book is much more morally ambiguous, with rich characters that are neither good nor bad, but simply human. Morgaine is not an evil sorceress, but she is a priestess and a pagan, as is the Merlin, who is head of the druids. The Mists of Avalon is above all else the story of the shift from the druidic pagan religion that worshiped the Goddess and embraced plurality to the early Christian church that worshiped one God and sought to convert other people to their religion. As the Goodreads description says, "Christianity vs. Faery, and God vs. Goddess are dominant themes." In the end of the book the main character comes to terms with Christianity, but throughout much of the book there is a strong hostility towards the kind of Christians that were present at the time. This means that the main characters are openly scornful of the sin-and-damnation kind of Medieval Christianity that had no tolerance for other religions, was built on guilt, and taught that women were by nature sinful. If you are easily offended by a positive depiction of paganism, sexual freedom, or people who don't like those aspects of Christianity mentioned above , then I suggest you don't read this book.
That said, I do not think this is a book that no Christian can enjoy. My good friend Daniel is Christian, and he loved it. I am personally non-religious, and I think it is a strong credit to Mrs. Bradley that while I was reading even I wished that women were really witches and had sacred power and celebrated the pagan rites. The real strong point of this book for me is that it is convincing. When I heard the Merlin say that all Gods are the same God and that we should all join together in our different worship styles, I honestly believed him and agreed with him. When I heard Morgaine talk of people seeing the Goddess in her, I wished that people would see the Goddess in me too. When she talks of the sexual morals of the pagans (which are much more free and life-affirming that those of the Christians from that time period) I agreed with everything she said, and was scandalized that anyone could think differently. Now, I have not converted to paganism by any means. I say these things to tell you how I felt in the moment reading this book. It is a powerfully engrossing experience. I don't think that I've ever been sucked into a book as much as I have with this one.
The fact that this book is so enchanting makes it all the more tragic. I've always thought that Arthur was the greatest tragic character. In the original myth all he wanted was to create peace in his kingdom and for all of his friends to be happy, but in the end the people he loves become his downfall and he lives just long enough to see his kingdom destroyed. I came into this book preparing to care for Arthur like I always have. I wasn't prepared to care for everyone else too. Somehow, Bradley made me care for and understand every single character in this book, so if one character betrayed another I felt honestly sorry for both of them. I loved Arthur, yes, but I also loved Lancelot and Morgaine and I at least understood Gwenhwyfar, even if I disagreed with her for most of the book. I loved the Merlin, but I also loved Nimue. Usually when a character you love is hurt by someone in a book you can take a strange sort of comfort in the fact that the person who hurt them was bad or evil and you never liked them anyway. That's what bad guys are for. But in this book there are no bad guys, and so there is no end to the sadness. I was expecting Arthur to be a tragic hero, I wasn't expecting everyone else to be one too.
While this book is very long and can often get heavy with religious debates and political maneuvering, it is absolutely worth every page. Arthurian Legend is already excellent in and of itself, but this book expands on it it ways I never thought possible, and in doing so it creates human beings out of previously mythical figures. Every part of the myth suddenly makes sense and comes to life in a way it never has before. After reading this book, you will never look at Arthurian legend the same way again.
Rating: a solid 4 stars Highly recommended. ...more
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories that are all takes and retellings of various fairy tales, ranging from the obscure to the fantastiThe Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories that are all takes and retellings of various fairy tales, ranging from the obscure to the fantastical, from the ordinary to the surreal. I knew from the very first page of this book that Carter was an incredibly talented author with a real command of the English language. No matter what's happening in the story, her language has a way of pulling you in and keeping you there until the story is done. Though the writing style changes a bit for every story, it's always rich, sensuous, beautiful language. After reading just the first paragraph, I was hooked. I checked out the book from the library, and sat down to read.
This book is, first and foremost, a collection of short stories. Each story is its own thing, not related to any other story in the book. I am going to review each tale separately, in the order in which they appear in the book. There will not be any spoilers.
The Bloody Chamber: As both the title story and the first story in the collection, this slightly gruesome tale definitely doesn't disappoint. I'm not sure what fairytale this one is based off of. A young girl marries a rich older man, three times a widower, who takes her back to his castle of an ancestral home. But why has he chosen her, and what fate awaits her in this sumptuous palace? Even if I could guess the secret before it happened, the ending was still good, and the writing was fabulous.
The Courtship of Mr. Lion: This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, one of two in the collection. This one is the more familiar of the two, sticking fairly closely to the original story, and making the beast a fairly sympathetic character. It's very sweet, which can be expected considering the source material.
The Tiger's Bride: This is the second Beauty and the Beast retelling in the collection and it is definitely the stranger of the two. It departs quite far from the original tale, and becomes something much more raw and surreal. In the end, I find that this is the better of the two stories. I would absolutely recommend it.
Puss-in-Boots: This is less a retelling and more a classic Puss-in-Boots tale, plus a few added (very mild) sexually explicit scenes . It's cheeky and adventurous, just like any cat hero should be.
The Erl-King: I'm not sure what fairy tale this is based on. It reminds me very much of the mystic tales of forest gods, strong beings with strange powers living out in the center of the woods. the writing only adds to this feeling. It is mystical and wild, with sentences that might be run-ons and the most perfect and old descriptions of the forest.
The Snow Child: This one is very short, only a few pages. I'm not really sure what to make of it. The writing style is also shorter and more to-the-point than in other stories. It reads more like a fable than the others.
Lady of the House of Love: This is a new take on the Vampire genre. It shows two different sides to the vampire life, almost as if contrasting the old legends with the new world. The writing and the story are both very melancholy and shadowy. Sometimes the main character's thoughts get mixed up in the dialogue, only to be sorted out int he next paragraph, as if she's so lonely that her thoughts are as real to her as real conversation. This is an excellent example of Carter using language to set the mood of a story.
The Werewolf: This is a retelling of Little Red Riding-Hood. It was short and shocking, with clipped brutal sentences and a harsh tone that somehow reminded me of The Lottery. It definitely surprised me.
The Company of Wolves: Another retelling of Little Red Riding-Hood, this one is much more strange. It does have some wonderful descriptions though, once calling wolf song "an aria of fear made audible." I'm not really sure what to think about this one.
Wolf Alice: This tale tells the story of a girl raised by wolves, rescued by people, and then sent ot be a maid for a vman who is either a werewolf, a vampire, or something else strange. It's part coming-of-age story for this young girl, and part meditation on what it's like to be in between worlds. Then again, maybe those two things aren't that far apart.
All together, this makes up an amazing collection of short stories that packs quite a punch in its mere 126 pages. I think my favorite stories in the collection were The Tiger's Bride, Puss-in-Boots, and The Erl-King, but really they were all captivating. In this collection, Angela Carter shows her true skill. She is able to do something that is, by the very nature of the genre, rather rare. With a book of fairy-tale retellings, Carter manages to create something completely and utterly original.
Eh. It's not good, and it's not bad. I guess mediocre is the word I'd use. As much as I love dystopian themes, female leads in action books, and rebellEh. It's not good, and it's not bad. I guess mediocre is the word I'd use. As much as I love dystopian themes, female leads in action books, and rebellion against cruel governments, this book just didn't really work for me. I mean, it was exciting and fast paced and all that, but I feel like the author is really pulling a lot of stupid stunts on us in this book. A lot of the plot seems pretty far fetched and fabricated. That can sometimes be ok if the writer is talented enough to make me believe it anyway, or to make such a good story of it that I don't care, but this author really doesn't have the talent to do either. The characters are pretty one dimensional and none of them are even really likable except Preeta, the plot is at times highly predictable and at others just completely ridiculous, and the writing style is mediocre at best. It's clearly a book meant for younger audiences, maybe 12 - 13 years old. If the author had tried a little harder to fill in the plot holes or make the coincidences more believable, this could have been a great book. As it is, it just ends up being interesting and maybe even exciting, but not what I'd call satisfying. I don't know if I'll be reading the next one.
This second book was, to me, the low point of the entire series. While in the first book I could understand Katniss's romantic confusion and inability to decide what she wanted (after all, it was sprung on her suddenly and in an awkward situation), in this book I thought that she went from being simply confused to using the two boys for her own purposes. She didn't want to date them, but she sure didn't mind cuddling or smooching them when she needed comfort. I don't care if she couldn't choose, but she shouldn't have strung them along like that. I had trouble finding Katniss special in the first book, but I had trouble caring about her at all in this one. Luckily, Peeta becomes a more sympathetic and well-rounded character in this book. While he isn't nearly as human as I'd like, his more revolutionary ideas were some of the best and most advanced in the book. He definitely helped to balance out my growing dislike of Katniss. I also felt that the plot was even more unrealistic and gimmicky than in the first book. *Spoiler Alert* The fact that they ended up in the games again seemed a bit silly to me. It's like she had a great premise with the first book but didn't know where to go from there, so she just brought it back. I know it fit into the overall plot arch, but it just felt like a stretch to me. *End Spoiler* Also, I think that the cliff-hanger endings to both books were a bit over-dramatic. I know what she was going for, but I don't think it quite worked. The one good thing that carried over into this book was the action-packed prose. While it may not be the most sophisticated writing on the planet, it is certainly exciting. I feel that Collins handles fast-paced action sections better than the slower more emotional parts of the book, and though I still wanted more detail on the violent parts, I thought she stepped up the horror level a few notches in this book even without resorting to descriptive violence. Overall, I thought this book was lacking in both character and plot development. It definitely did not live up to my relatively low expectations.