About the Book

Title: The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan Le Fay
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Cover Story: Incognito
BFF Charm: Yes!
Talky Talk: Solid
Bonus Factors: Feminism, Badassery, Magic, The Birds
Relationship Status: Goin’ Steady

Cover Story: Incognito

I like the cover ok. It’s pretty basic, and doesn’t scream “Here be dragons” or anything, and the crow is one of the most important symbols in the whole book, so it actually makes sense (unlike tilted emo faces). It’s a rather ambiguous cover, which works well for public transport and other potentially embarrassing situations.

The Deal:

Morgan le Fay, King Arthur’s half sister, is exiled when her mother sleeps with Uter Pendragon and Uter kills Morgan’s father, Gorlois. If her exile is mentioned at all, it’s usually that she’s sent to a convent, or as Marion Zimmer Bradley would have you believe she hones her craft on the lost isle of Avalon, but sa-noooooooooze. Epstein has a way more awesome version of Morgan’s lost years — she heads off to Ireland where she goes from being a guest of a kinswoman to a slave to a totally badass warrior queen and sorceress, all bent on hellfire vengeance against Uter.

BFF Charm: Yes!

Yay BFF Charm

Morgan is one tough kid — exiled to Ireland at the age of 11, enslaved before she’s 13. I know it was like eleven billion years ago, but dang. I had a hard enough time handling 6th grade when I was 11. She COULD have spent the whole time whining, but instead she uses every bad thing that happens as fuel for her revenge plans, and somehow still stays fairly kind and compassionate (more or less). Anyway, I’m probably too loserish for the likes of her, but I hope she’d put up with me as long as I promised not to get in her way.

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Holla! There’s real mother-effin’ S-E-X in this book! Only not ACTUAL mother effin’ (or brother effin’, for those of you who did your Arthurian homework). Cos that’d be gross. And it’s FULL OF SWOON, thanks to hot chemistry, true love, betrayal and a little heartbreak.

Talky Talk: Solid

This is one of my favorite writing styles — concise. Clean. Evocative. Decidedly not poetic or flowery. Epstein also tackles the druidism and magic and religion head on without getting all woo-woo about it. In the same way great myths work, his matter-of-fact tone makes the early Christians and the power-hungry druids and Morgan’s exploration of the elemental forces of the natural world makes the book ring true, rather than seem like it comes out of The Girl’s Tarot and Spirit Guide to the Wonderful World of Like, Magicks and Wicca and Stuff.

As the sun was falling into the hills, she came to a place that seemed, somehow, right … and she realized she was looking at a low, round hill no taller than a man, a pimple on the surface of the earth. No, not a hill. It had a rectangular opening framed with giant stones, and it had a ceiling made of another giant stone.

It was a barrow grave. Ancient people had made it. Time had emptied it.

If it was good enough for the ancient dead to sleep in, it was good enough for her, she thought, and she curled up inside of it like a fox, the knife in her hand, and for some reason she dreamt of nothing but horses all night long.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

My favorite bonus factor! Morgan’s story is like the proto-feminist story (ok, there’s Boadicea, and you could argue the Grendel, and then all those goddesses in mythology). She avenges her father! And is a warrior queen of Ireland! And has more power in her little finger than Arthur in his whole body!

Bonus Factor: Badassery

Charlize Theron as Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road holds a gun a stares fiercely just off camera

See above and below, especially the seriously badass Morrigan and her crows. There’s killing and maiming and triple death and leashing the elements and white hot revenge. It’s like Grandpa tells Fred Savage in The Princess Bride (there’s also kissing).

Bonus Factor: Magic

I gotta admit, most of what I know about “magic” comes from Charmed and Buffy, and I don’t know much about King Arthur beyond Avalon High and The Sword in the Stone (aka GREATEST MOVIE OF MY CHILDHOOD), BUT (thank you, Wikipedia), I have learned a big part of Arthurian legend is how the High King brought Christianity to Britain, and Morgan the sorceress represents the old ways of nature gods and goddesses, blah blah blah. Epstein could have easily lampooned the early Christians, but he chooses instead to give them the power of their faith, even if Morgan rejects the reality of their one god. It’s a fine line to walk, and the respect the book gives to both Christianity and Wicca (for lack of a better word) saves it from hokes-ville and makes it pretty cool.

Bonus Factor: The Birds

Morgan’s patron goddess is the Morrigan, Queen of Shadows, who controls the ravens and crows and feasts on those who die in battle. Especially THEIR EYES. Morgan does some pretty wicked things with that. Yum. (This is not A Bird Called Olive, yo.)

Relationship Status: Goin’ Steady

This book and I had a strong connection early on. I couldn’t wait for our first date, and it didn’t disappoint! Ever since, I’ve been cyberstalking it, devouring everything I can about Morgan and Arthur so I can get to know it better. We’ve been seeing each other for a while now, and I’d love to see what happens in the future (ahem … sequel? Please?). While I’m not ready to pledge eternal love, I have no intention of letting it go anytime soon (sorry!).

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan Le Fay is available now.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.