"The Mists of Avalon" is one of those books that makes you feel older when you've finished it. It essentially follows a group of character's entire lives. At the end of it everyone has died, not from some horrible event but from old age.
When I was in my teens I had a mild curiosity of the King Arthur legend and tried to read on it but unfortunately didn't have the patience to make it through this book but devoured this one (and the movie it was based off of of course). "The Mists of Avalon" has been on my list since then but I was quite honestly intimidated by the sheer size of it. (Which is silly when you think about it but that has often guided my tastes in books until recently.)
Morgaine is everything I've ever wanted in a heroine- dignified, strong, beautiful, flawed and resilent. I wish I had met this character when I was at a more vulnerable age because she would have been one hell of a fictional role model and I probably would have kicked literal ass in high school if I had modeled myself after her. Speaking of flawed- one thing the author did really well, and maybe the main reason why she wrote the book, was to cast a very vulnerable hue on almost every character in Arthurian legend. Everyone was flawed and acted and reacted on human impulse. It definitely endeared me to even the characters I didn't like. They were all human and made mistakes.
The book starts off introducing Arthur and Morgaine's mother, Egraine and her love story with Uther Pendragon. A common theme throughout the book was personal sacrifice for the greater good. Egraine has to leave her relatively comfortable marriage to pursue a union with Uther. In the end it wasn't and hard choice but she was told about it by the Lady of the Lake and the Merlin who essentially ordered her to do so.
Another theme in the book is all gods being one God. When the Merlin first started bashing Christianity I wondered if this was just going to be another book that just bastardized someone's idea of Christianity but as it was elaborated upon and reiterated throughout the story people of the old religion weren't against God or the religion itself but against the Church and the power Arthur gave to it's priest. The end of the book has Morgaine who could arguably be the one most against the Christian religion coming to the realization that the Virgin Mary was the Church's representation of the Goddess.
Despite the size of this book Marion Zimmer Bradley does not waste words. Every chapter each character grows a little more and monumental amounts of time pass. The plot wanes in some places particularly near the end of the book. My only complaint about the whole thing would be the entire plot line involving the holy grail feels like it was thrown in there compared to the rest of the plot lines. Overall, it was a well written, well- detailed story that made the popular myth more like actual history.