I Am Morgan le Fay
Nancy Springer

Morality: C+
Writing: A

Having just picked this book up on a whim, I was surprised and pleased at its quality. The novel tells the story of the young years of Morgan le Fay, the half-sister of King Arthur and a sorceress. When she is very young, Morgan’s father is killed by King Uther, who then marries her mother Igraine. After Uther’s death, Igraine is taken by the evil knight Redburke and eventually driven insane with grief. Meanwhile, Morgan, her sister Morgause, and their nurse Ongwynn are forced to go into hiding. Eventually Morgan’s budding romance ends in tragedy as well. Thus Morgan’s formative years are shaped by grief and anger, leading to hardness and eventual evil.

I was very impressed with the writing in this book. The story is told in the first person, and Springer does a remarkable job at capturing Morgan’s age in her narrative voice — from the perspective of a 7-year-old, 12-year-old, and then a young woman. The characterization is, if not incredible, satisfactory and certainly far superior to the average first-person novel. The book is well-paced and well-plotted, although not very complex. Besides all that, the prose is astonishingly beautiful. Springer’s descriptions are lyrical and gorgeous.

Morally, the book is a mixed bag. It is remarkably free of outright objectionable material. Violence takes place, but is not particularly gruesome, although emotionally disturbing at times. In spite of an intense (and very sweetly developed) romance, absolutely nothing inappropriate occurs. Although a book featuring as its heroine Morgan le Fay, the evil villainess of the Arthurian legends, sounds morally suspect in premise, the author does an impressive job at showing the evil of Morgan’s choices and the fearsomeness of her actions, brought on by anger, bitterness, and wildness of spirit refusing to be tamed. Morgan is not necessarily a likeable person, but one may sympathize with her.

The magic in the book is somewhat problematic; however, it is less problematic than simply muddled. There does seem to be some distinction between good and evil magic (Merlin, who is seen only briefly, is portrayed as adhering to evil sorcery, and Morgan chooses his way in the end), but the distinction is not made clear. The less culpable magic, which is still portrayed as slightly uncanny at times, is somewhat synonymous with druidic magic. The beings who train Morgan in her magical arts are Celtic deities — Cernunnos, Rhiannon, Menwy — who are known as ‘fays’. The different kinds of sorcery, and those which are acceptable, both in Morgan’s world and for a Christian reader of fantasy, are not clearly defined. Still, the book is probably not harmful for older readers, and the beautiful writing and interesting premise made it highly enjoyable for me.

Posted by Sasha | June 20, 2003

Leave a Reply

Powered by WP Hashcash