When I was writing my first trilogy, I read all kinds of Arthurian legend original sources and retellings, but I’ve never yet come across a backstory for Morgan. So points for uniqueness! The story was very well written and engaging, as well.
It did follow the popular trope lately of rendering a villain sympathetic, though. From a philosophical standpoint I don’t always love that concept–there’s an argument to be made that there is some good and bad in everyone, surely, and a complex villain is far more interesting than one who is merely one-dimensional. You also can’t have a cardboard main character, or you have an uninteresting story. At the same time, I think the concern is that rendering villains sympathetic tends to further blur the lines between right and wrong, in a society that already sees these concepts as murky at best, and nonexistent at worst. (Take that to an extreme, and you’ve got an existential crisis waiting to happen.) There’s something refreshing and innocent about the old timey movies and stories where the good guys were true heroes, the bad guys were caricatures, and you knew exactly who and what to root for.
But I digress… Keetch did do a great job in rendering Morgan as a very sympathetic character. You utterly hated Uther Pendragon. You also hated Merlin, and later you came to despise Morgan’s husband. In fact, you hated most of the men in the story, come to think of it, which makes me think there might have been a slight toxic masculinity theme going on here too. Morgan fell in love with a squire who became a knight later, and while he wasn’t a jerk, he was portrayed as a coward ultimately. (Arthur came into the story very late, and he was all right, so that was something. He wasn’t a hero, but I can’t recall anything specifically negative about him.)
Another strong theme of the story, come to think of it, was kind of anti-religion. I didn’t notice it too much at the time, but Morgan is sent to a convent where she begins to learn “accepted” healing methods. She finds she has a supernatural gift of healing, which is considered “of the devil.” Nearly everyone except her closest friends (who happen to check some woke boxes themselves) thinks the same, so she has to hide her powers from everyone… until the very end, when she finally is ready to throw off the patriarchy and come into her own.
I enjoyed the story, but now that I stop to reflect upon it I can certainly see why it was written now.
My rating: ****
Language: I think there was some but it wasn’t overwhelming
Sexual content: it’s there, but it’s not gratuitous. The story does rail against conventions of sexual morality connected with it, though.
Violence: present but not gratuitous that I recall
Political content: pretty heavy
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