The Road to Avalon
First published in 1988, The Road to Avalon has been reissued with a foreword by Mary Jo Putney. Set in a post-Roman world, this is a historical romance, one of the handful that celebrate the love between Morgan (le Fay) and King Arthur: in this version, she is Merlin’s daughter by his second wife, he Merlin’s grandson through his first wife, thereby diminishing the incest motif. Unaware of their relationship, the pair are raised together as children in Merlin’s villa in Avalon. They fall in love, achieving a closeness that allows them to sense not only each other’s feelings, but thoughts too.
The characters are idealized, generous and noble-hearted for the most part (with the exception of Agravaine, who is the villain here): for the good of Britain Morgan refuses to marry Arthur and conceals her pregnancy from him; Arthur knows of and accepts the affair between Gwenhwyfar and Bedwyr, who plays Lancelot’s traditional role; Mordred, who is raised by Morgause in Lothian, is a well-meaning, albeit naïve, young man; the queen does struggle with jealousy of Morgan and distress at her inability to provide Arthur with an heir, but she genuinely loves and cares for Arthur.
The focus, however, remains upon Morgan and Arthur, who are linked by a bond of love that cannot be broken. They are admirable figures, but they remain human and sympathetic too, for we witness their pain at their enforced separation. This is a romantic tale, but it captures the spirit of idealism and self-sacrifice for the greater good that is so important to the Arthurian dream. Its return to print is thus doubly welcome.