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Avalon (2006)

Avalon (2006)

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3.85 of 5 Votes: 1
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1556526008 (ISBN13: 9781556526008)
chicago review press

About book Avalon (2006)

This was a Jekyll & Hyde reading experience -- the first half was excellent, but the second half dragged. -spoiler warning-Half #1 centers around Merewyn & Rumon's time at the royal court of Edgar & his son Edward (roughly 970-80 AD). The secret of Merewyn's non-royal birth is a deathbed vow that Rumon carries only by accident; he's a petulant, haughty, & sanctimonious whinger who thinks entirely too much of his worth to God's creation. Merewyn was more likable, though not always the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I certainly felt sorry for her unrequited love -- the reader shares her frustration as Rumon obsesses over (Evil) Queen Alfrida, wasting the best years of his romantic life on a woman who tramples his woobie-will under her quest for power in the English kingdom. Merewyn tries to warn him, of course, but Rumon allows his dick to rule his brain...until he fails to prevent Alfrida's murdering the young king Edward, at which point he has an attack of conscience & decides Merewyn really was worthy of his affection.But it's too little, too late. And so begins Half #2. Merewyn is captured by a shipload of Vikings -- one of which turns out to be her blood-father, the dude who raped her mom on a previous raid -- and is forced to settle for life on Iceland. Despite her misgivings, she grows fond of her father & marries his foster son, Sigurd, then moves with them to a Greenland colony with Erik the Red. Rumon manages to find her...but three years too late. She's in love with Sigurd & content with her lot in life (including smexy lovins from a Real Man(tm)), so Rumon sulks away to become a monk. Fast forward sixteen more years & Merewyn is leaving Greenland to return to England, with her two grown kids in tow. She ends up married to a rich dude & we're treated to several episodic snapshots of Ethelred's reign (aka Ethelred the Unready, who by all indications was a useless lump), including his marriage to the young Queen Emma. ...And after all this, Rumon-the-Monk drops back into the story, somehow convincing Merewyn that his opinion should matter, & she spends a few pages confessing to people that she's a Viking bastard. The end. (Can you tell the last quarter of the book was a slog? :P)Anyway...The first half had a good flow & I was totally into the story. But the pacing of the second half ruined the rating. We don't see any of Merewyn's acclimation to the Viking life, nor the development of her relationship with her father or falling for Sigurd. Why not? These are important plot points that need to be onscreen, not infodump'd & taken on faith. Even worse -- by the end of two chapters in Merewyn's new Viking life, we're wham, bam tossed sixteen years ahead to Merewyn's children as grown & her father dead & the Greenland colony in danger from extinction. WHAT?! The episodic nature of the Viking section was a total failure, IMO -- which sucks, because I really enjoyed the parts that were included. But this is an excellent example of Time-Passing-In-Chunks & why it's a technique FAIL (according to this reader, at least). I don't mind rapid time passage when it sets the table for the meat of the story (e.g., childhood recaps in Victoria Holt), but this is when it doesn't work. These are important character & plot developments that should be focused on, not glossed over. It was a horrible waste of characters I wanted to spend more time with. Even worse -- by the time the Viking section had been mangled, I wasn't in the mood for Merewyn's meandering around England & giving a not-so-subtle infodump re: Ethelred's disastrous reign, thus making the last 100 pages a slog that inspired little interest. It's a shame, really. As I've said, the first half was quite good & an interesting peek at the Dark Ages era of English history. Though Avalon is set about 200 years before The Rain Maiden, it was intriguing to see how much things had changed in those two centuries. They're both medieval, yes...but the tone of the books are totally different, as are the plights of the characters involved. Another thing that interested me was the Greenland settlement. I've read another novel about that same tidbit of microhistory -- The Thrall's Tale -- and enjoyed it. (Random: the seer in Avalon is named Thorbjorg, the same as The Thrall's Tale, which makes me wonder if there's record of a witch-woman by that name in the colony.) But in my eyes, The Thrall's Tale succeeded where Avalon failed -- that is, crafting a brutal, visceral story that centers on a small cast of characters as they survive in an equally brutal, visceral environment. Avalon is certainly an ambitious novel, & it could have been fabulous. But it needed a full 800 pages to do justice to all that was glossed.3.5 stars -- 4.5 for the first half, 2.5 for the second. As of writing this review, I'm not rounding up...but who knows. Maybe I'll share Rumon's attack of conscience & upgrade to 4. (Hey, it could happen. ;))

You know what I loved about this book? That the two protagonists didn't end up together! I am so happy that it was realistic in that sense. I was worried that it might turn out to be like her novel Katherine, where it took the whole novel for the two of them to end up married. I thought this would follow the same route, but thankfully it did not. I loved how we got so much history in a small novel. We were in King Edgar's court, followed by the upheaval and murder of King Edward to place Ethelred on the throne. Then the two protagonists, Merewyn and Rumon, separate and their story follows different paths. Merewyn goes to a convent to live for a while, while Rumon similarly ends up in a monastery. After a few events, they end up kind of together again, before Merewyn gets kidnapped by vikings and spends her next 15-20 years. Too late, Rumon realizes he loves her, tries to find her, and ends up in America before finding her back in Iceland. She no longer loves Rumon, but loves her new husband (Stockholm Syndrome anyone?) and gives Rumon the cold shoulder. Ouch. After he spend 15 years to find her, that's kind of harsh. Oh well. He was too late. He goes back to England and becomes a monk...later becoming Saint Rumon (though this is only implied, we never know for sure). When Merewyn's husband dies on Greenland, she goes back to England as well. She does see Rumon one last time where he gives her final instructions on how to find peace in her life.Okay, way more details than that, but that's the gist of it. It's titled Avalon because Rumon is constantly searching for the fabled Avalon, but never finds it. It also speaks to his larger character of never being happy with what he has and always trying to find something greater, even when Avalon is right in front of him. I love how we saw so many different countries in this novel, and different events that I knew so little about.The only reason I give it 4 stars and not 5, is because it didn't hook me like Katherine did (Katherine is my favoritest book of all time). I liked it, and found it intriguing, but I don't think I'll remember it in a few months, nor would I want to read it again.

Do You like book Avalon (2006)?

"Avalon" was the first of Anya Seton's novels I've read, but it will be far from the last. The historical detail and vibrant descriptions made it incredibly easy to slip into the world of the late-10th and early-11th centuries. This epic saga spans over thirty years in the lives of the French prince, Romieux de Provence, seeking the mythic island of Avalon, and Merewyn, a lonely Cornish girl who loves him. Always on opposite ends of the spectrum, the story of Rumon (as the prince is called) and Merewyn spans several lands including Cornwall, Brittany, England, Iceland, Greenland, and the present-day United States.In addition to providing an escape for the reader, I believe it will leave a long-lasting impression on a mind or heart like mine. I will read it again one day, and am already looking forward to doing so.

I can't honestly bash on the woman who wrote "Katherine" but I didn't really like this book. By the end of the book I felt like I didn't even know Merewyn. She was so fickle and confusing. And Rumon was so conflicting. I don't think I liked either of them. Well I liked Rumon at the end. You can tell the extensive research that went into this book and I found that interesting, but the plot was ineffective. I felt like I was in three different plots by the end: with Alfrida in the beggining and then Rumon's little whiny stage then in iceland. I don't know, I just got impatient for it to end. The first half flew by pretty fast, but the last half, I kind of had to force myself to finish it. And when something catostrophic would happen, I kind of just ignored it because it doesn't really ever effect the plot of the whole book. I know it is supposed to be more of their whole lives but she pulled of the climax of Katherine's life to the tee. I don't know how she missed it here.

One-sentence summary: Set in 10th century Britain, the book follows the tumultuous lives of French prince Rumon and Cornish lady-in-waiting Merewyn as they take part in court life and struggle to survive the constant Viking attacks.Why did you get this book?: I love historical novels; I love Anya Seton; this is a time period I know very little about.Do you like the cover?: Yes, because I like Pre-Raphaelite art, but I think it is the wrong image for the story; something more medieval would have been better.Did you enjoy the book?: Very much so -- I found it slow to start, but within a chapter or two, it became very engrossing.Other thoughts?: This wasn't a romance! There were definitely romantic subplots but the entire story was not built around a romance between Rumon and Merewyn, which I loved. I also enjoyed the two worlds portrayed in this book -- the first half described medieval court life in England while the second half detailed Merewyn's experience in Iceland and Greenland. Fascinating stuff.
—Audra (Unabridged Chick)

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