Published in 1983, The Mists of Avalon is a novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is notable among the many, many variants in Arthurian legend due to its approach - the story is told not only through the eyes of a woman, but through the eyes of one of the biggest villains in the legends. The narrator is Morgaine (Morgan le Fay or Morgan of the Fairies), who tells Arthur's tale (and her own) against the backdrop of approaching war with Rome and the Saxons, as well as religious war as Christianity threatens to destroy Avalon and Goddess worship in Britain.Bradley was critically lauded for taking the Arthurian saga and making the characters three-dimensional. Up to this point, women were the biggest evils in the many variants - Morgan le Fay was an evil enchantress, as was Nimue, and Guinevere generally shouldered most of the blame for her extramarital tryst with Lancelot. This book attempts to rescue or make the women real, and not just one-note evil characters. In fact, none of the women mentioned in this paragraph have any wish to do harm to Camelot or Arthur.Several books came after this, all of them prequels. Near the end of her life, Bradley began collaborating on them with Diana Paxson, who took over the series after her death. The novels which they wrote together include: Forest House, Lady of Avalon, and Priestess of Avalon.The main characters:
Morgaine: Protagonist, priestess of Avalon, and half sister to Arthur. Daughter of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and Igraine.
Arthur: King Arthur. Caught between oaths to the Lady of Avalon and the spread of Christianity.
Viviane: High Priestess of Avalon and sister to Igraine and Morgause. Manipulates things behind the scenes, but does everything to try to save Avalon.
Morgause: Sister to Igraine and Viviane. Plots to put her husband or one of her sons on the throne.
Aerith and Bob: Running the gamut from familiar - Arthur - to medieval and acceptable - Lancelot, Morgaine - to alternate spellings - Gwenhwyfar - and then Kevin.
Anachronism Stew: Assuming that this story happened during the time the historical Patricius (AKA St. Patrick) was alive, it would have taken place in the 5th century AD. Yet the story talks about Moorish Spain. Muhammad (the founder of Islam) would not even be born till 597 AD. Islam was not founded till the 7th century AD. And Spain was not invaded by the Muslims till the 8th century AD!
Minor example- but the book also talks about praying to Mary with a string of beads. In other words, a rosary. Which was invented by St. Dominic in the 13th century AD!
Atlantis: Where the priests/priestesses in Britain came from.
Belief Makes You Stupid: Various minor characters espouse Dung Ages-style Christian superstitiousness throughout the story. The trope is also a big factor in the plot-shifting decisions of Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar - at various times in the story, their fanaticism drives them to do things that slowly destroy Arthur's kingdom.
Broken Pedestal: Morgaine's for Viviane when she finds out she orchestrated the anonymous sexual tryst between Morgaine and her brother.
Brother-Sister Incest: Morgaine conceives a child by Arthur, a boy named Gwydion ("bright one"). This is subverted somewhat in that Morgaine and Arthur did not know they were having sex with each other at the time. Morgaine hadn't seen her half-brother since he was 3, both were masked, and both were playing parts in a Sacred Marriage rite.
Exact Words: Gwenhwyfar tells Morgaine that there's a man of the kingdom of North Wales who's a believer in the Old religion who wishes to marry her. Morgaine believes it's Accolon, a knight she has grown affectionate for. It's actually his dad King Uriens
The Fair Folk: Present, and more than happy to either help after extracting a huge promise, or generally fuck things up to get what they want. Presented as powerful, manipulative, and not to be trusted.
Foregone Conclusion: Since the entire story is, of course, based on Arthurian legend, anyone who has read them through will already know how several things will happen beforehand. even though they are told in a slightly different way
Law of Inverse Fertility: Morgaine sleeps with Arthur once, and conceives. Gwenhwyfar does everything she can for years to conceive, down to betraying her Christianity and asking Morgaine for a magical charm, and cannot. Subverted; Gwenhwyfar's infertility is not natural. Morgause had planted goons in the castle to mix contraceptive/abortion herbs into her meals.
Shown Their Work: The characters discuss how goat's milk is easier to digest than bovine or equine milk. Modern research shows that goat's milk has very little lactose- and thus it is easier to digest by people with lactose intolerance than bovine milk.