The Circle Cast speculates about what the life of Morgan Le Fay may have been like and what events lead to her legend becoming what it is today As a huge fan of historical fiction, especially historical fiction that encompasses folklore and it’s characters, The Circle Cast was a big hit with me It was like getting a story within a story.Morgan, originally known as Anna, flees her home after her father is killed by a man desperate for both power and Anna’s mother The story takes place over many years of Morgan/Anna's life beginning when she is just 11 years old When she leaves her home and sets out for Ireland she never expects to become a slave, a faux Christian, or the powerful figure she eventually evolves into Her path is cluttered with numerous obstacles which just makes her tale evenengrossing Her will to survive, even if it was driven by revenge, is powerful and guaranteed to pack an emotional punch I’ll admit this isn’t a time period I have read much from It dates back much farther than my normal reading choices Diving into The Circle Cast with it’s references to history, religion, and lore from so many different places and cultures was both enlightening and refreshing I enjoyed every moment I spent familiarizing myself with Morgan and the world she lived in This is a book that will make readers long forknowledge about the characters I don’t know about you, but any book that can make me Google will always hold a special place on my bookshelf.While The Circle Cast is technically Young Adult I feel it can easily appeal to even exclusive readers of adult fiction who enjoy a folklore and history. Originally posted on my blog: ! Check it out forreviews!The daughter of a Roman governor, Gorlois, and his beautiful wife, Ygraine, Anna has spent her life in her parents’ British stronghold Din Tagell, reading the classics, learning about the culture of Rome, and being educated by her father in the ways of war When Anna is elevenyearsold, however, her life changes forever when her father’s friend and ally, powerful warrior Uter Pendragon, betrays and murders Gorlois in order to claim Ygraine as his wife Fearing for her daughter’s life, Ygraine sends Anna to live in Ireland, telling her adopt the name Morgan and let no one know her true identity lest Uter find out where she is hiding Morgan soon finds herself living with Ciarnat, her mother’s relative, and chief of the Déisi tribe The Irish are strange and barbaric to Morgan, who is used to the learning and discipline of the Romans After Ciarnat’s village is attacked and plundered by a neighboring tribe, Morgan is captured and becomes a slave to Buanann, a wise woman and sorceress living in a lakeside village Although Buanann is far from warm, she begins to teach Morgan her magic: spells to deceive and gain power TheMorgan learns, theshe realizes that Buanann’s teachings may hold the key to her returning to Brittania and seeking the revenge she longs for against Uter Written by veteran screenwriter Alex Epstein, The Circle Cast is an intriguing and original take on a character that has appeared in legends and lore for centuries: Morgan le Fay Although she is traditionally thought of as a seductress and antagonist in Arthurian legend, Epstein goes for another,uncommon portrayal, turning Morgan into a fierce warrior seeking to avenge her father’s death Almost from the start of the novel, it is clear that Morgan is a very strong character Throughout the story, readers will find a lot to be respect about Epstein’s version of Morgan, including her intelligence, bravery, and tenacity Although she knows to use her beauty as a weapon if necessary, this Morgan is not the temptress she appears to be incontemporary versions of the tale Her romance with Irish warrior, Conall, adds a nice element to the story, softening Morgan’s edges a bit, though not diminishing her skills as a strategist and sorceress There is also a fair amount of history thrown into the novel that would make it an interesting read for the classroom Overall, The Circle Cast is a thoroughly enjoyable story that can be easily enjoyed by teen and adult readers alike Fans of Arthurian legend should definitely give this novel a try, as well as those who like strong female characters I have always been intrigued by the character of Morgan le Fay, so I was excited to read The Circle Cast I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the novel! Sometimes historical fiction, no matter how interesting, can be a little dry That was far from the case with this novel Alex Epstein is clearly a gifted writer in terms of pacing and keeping the plot moving forward I also found the characters and setting to be very well developed, particularly in Epstein’s portrayal of Morgan as a strong and intelligent warrior I think this novel has a strong place in the classroom, especially in demonstrating how one female character can be portrayed in so many different lights.
The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay by Alex Epstein is an excellent addition to the genre of Arthurian folklore and legend The author crafts worlds past with a deft hand, easily pulling a reader into the story.The book tells the story of the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay The Circle Cast portrays the early years of this character, first as the child Anna and then as Morgan after she flees Britain to Ireland It tells the story of her life as a stranger in a strange land, enslaved and surviving hardship to return to Britain and reclaim what she lost.The plotline is fresh, delving into a piece of Arthurian legend not excessively written about, yet still keeping to the traditional lines of the tale The author has a nice take on the magical aspects of the story, weaving a mysterious aspect in to the narrative by his effective use of Celtic religion and myth.The writer also does an exceptional job at creating the main character, making her a full person with fears, doubts and weakness, while still showcasing her strength of purpose The people surrounding her are nicely sketched as well, interacting and bringing the world around Morgan to life, filling a past age with solid reality.Being a devotee of the Arthurian legends, I’ve read many books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction, and this delightfully enchanting novel is a welcome complement to the mythology. The Circle Cast aims to fill in the gap between the time when Morgan is first seen as the daughter of Ygraine and Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and when she later reemerges as Arthur’s seductress and the mother of Mordred, his eventual downfall How does a young girl who is sent into exile, either for her own protection or simply to keep her out of the way as Uter Pendragon begins a passionate relationship with her mother, become a powerful and vengeful sorceress?Perhaps because Alex Epstein chooses to address Morgan le Fay’s childhood, an area of the legends which is not traditionally covered (in fact, only The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley springs to mind) and so is able to create entirely new material, I found this book rather enjoyable It used a familiar setting and some familiar characters but it didn’t trespass on the traditional stories: it added to them instead and I found this a refreshing and interesting approach.Morgan, or Anna as she begins the story, is a surprisingly complex character who develops convincingly throughout the course of the novel She starts out curious, questioning and vulnerable but quickly acquires a steely resolve and an adult mindset as she is forced to mature by her circumstances She’s so controlled and selfsufficient for much of the book that I don’t find her a particularly sympathetic character, but she’s still really interesting and a great strong female protagonist for a young adult story I thought it was particularly poignant and a clever touch that what she works towards in Ireland, unification under one High King, is exactly what Arthur later works towards in Britain.Of course, approaching such well known stories in any way, even Epstein’s rather oblique one, creates a set of problems for the author and reader It can be difficult to create tension an excitement in a story where the reader already knows the ending, and I was well aware that the question posed on the back cover of the book, ‘But when Morgan meets the handsome son of a chieftain, will she choose love or vengeance?‘ was not really a question at all Almost everyone reading this book will know that Morgan returns to Britain, seduces Arthur and gives birth to Mordred The tension then has to come from the writer either making the reader forget that the conclusion of the novel is inevitable or making the choices that the characters have to make so agonising that the reader wishes there were some other option Every time I go to see Blood Brothers I always find myself hoping against hope that this particular time it might end differently, despite all rational thought meaning I know it can’t, so I know that this can be achieved in The Circle Cast Epstein manages it as well, by and large, and even though I knew what Morgan would decide her situation was compelling enough that I caught myself wishing that this wasn’t the case.I also liked the way that, although the reader was never allowed to forget the connection to the Arthurian story, Epstein worked in other stories subsidiary to Morgan’s which provide context I particularly liked the story of Luan who wanted to live a Christian life of prayer rather than the life of a chieftain’s daughter The way in which she dealt with achieving her aims in a male dominated society provided a contrasting counterpoint to Morgan’s situation which added richness to the story.However, in spite of my enjoyment of Morgan’s story I have two problems with this book, the first zoological and the second temporal They may be relatively minor quibbles but both of them jolted me out of the narrative rather an immersing me further in the story Problem number one then There are two rather strange wildlife appearances in the novel The first is when Anna is travelling by boat across the Irish Sea from Cornwall to Ireland and the following description cropped up:When Morgan woke they were sailing through a vast flock of pelicans, thousands of them floating on the water, hundredsreeling above their heads One of them dove at the water and came up with a fish.Now, to the best of my knowledge, there are no pelicans in the Irish Sea, nor have there ever been Puffins, yes Seagulls, yes Pelicans, no A quick Google suggests that they don’t come any closer to the British Isles than the extreme south east of Europe The other issue was equine, when Morgan discovers a threetoed horse, which she takes as a special creature Once again, the best of my knowledge is largely represented by Wikipedia and consultation with some horsey friends, but nevertheless sources seem to agree that equus has one toeand the mesohippus shown on this diagram with three toes horses died out around 40 million years ago, which is a little old for Morgan to be riding one I am of course not an expert on historical zoology and this isn’t to say that I’m not wrong; Google, after all, is not infallible However, even if these animals are technically correct, they don’t feel as though they fit within the locale and time period that Epstein is evoking and so they would have been better substituted fortypical wildlife which instantly suggests Dark Age Britain Edit: Apparently I’m wrong about the horses They do occasionally come about as a genetic throwback, and Julius Caesar’s horse Beaucephalus had three toes Knowing this, it actually makes Morgan’s three toed mount a rather clever idea rather than a slightly peculiar one, as it places her in a context of great leaders Thanks to the author for clearing that one up.My other problem with the book was the inconsistent timescale: the amount of time that Morgan spends in slavery seems to vary hugely When she escapes to join the Christian community, we are told that ‘Morgan tucked into her first proper meal in eight years‘ (p 142); later she rescues the Greek slave who came to Ireland with her from Cornwall and ‘she could see he was trying to turn the twelveyearold he had lost into the sixteenyearold in the white cloth and gold that stood before him’ (p 240); later still she meets the man who enslaved her and ‘The head on the grass was ten years older’ (p 244) Even a brief glance shows that these timings don’t match up, and I wish that somecareful editing had picked this up so that it could be fixed.With these two exceptions I really enjoyed this novel I like Alex Epstein’s writing and I get the feeling that we’d get on rather well if we ever met, and would spend hours geeking out over Arthurian legend I hope he continues to writestories in this vein, perhaps continuing with Morgan’s tale, as I’d really like to read them. Source: Received from author courtesy of Teen Book Scene Many thanks goes to Alex Epstein and Teen Book Scene for sending me a copy of this book for review I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review My rating: 4/5Morgan is left bereft after her father is murdered by the High King With Uter's sights set on bedding Morgan's mother, she is left with only one option; to run as fast and as far away from Din Tagell as she can, lest she become another casualty of Uter's reign She flees to Ireland, vowing to return to wreak vengeance on Uter for taking both her father and mother away from her Though she is taken captive, enslaved, and regains her freedom, her plan for vengeance is never far from her mind The Circle Cast is a reimagining of the lost years of Morgan Le Fay Epstein brings to life a completely plausible and highly inventive way of life for the lost years of Morgan Le Fay With the assumed name of Morgan, Anna leaves her mother as they realize that Uter would kill any children not his own With Anna, now Morgan, on the run, a life living in the wilds of Ireland isthan likely to result in her enslavement as she explores her connection with the earth The Circle Cast is set in such a time where Christianity is deemed a strange and foreign concept, and druids proclaimed that their gods were real and could help them with magic whereas the Christian God could not With Christians spreading the word to the clans throughout Ireland, it was interesting to see how people reacted to them and the new God that they worshipped Many rebelled against this new God and refused to believe in a God so different from their own gods How Epstein integrates Christianity into Morgan's life and how she responds, or doesn't respond to it, really brings to life the conflict of the times, therein making Morgan's life at the time all theuncertain Her conflicted state of being wars with her connection to the earth and bringsrealism to her struggles She very much wants to avenge her father and mother, and finds the concept of grace and forgiveness foreign.All in all, a thoroughly and imaginatively described world in which magic comes to life as it is channeled through Morgan, as she calls on her connection to the earth to help her in her time of need History, and the early church history being spread across Ireland makes this a rich and informative read as well We get to see a side of Morgan that isn't necessarily seen as she comes to terms with her identity and future As an avid history fan, I absolutely loved this rendition of Morgan's lost years and am curious to see how Epstein would continue her story. There are some quibbles with the timeline and the writing can be a bit tell don't show at times, but still, a great Arthurian feminist fantasy Incredibly absorbing from the getgo, but then again I love Arthurian fiction set in Roman Britain ( like, crumbling Roman Britain) so there's a biasWhat I enjoy about Arthurian fiction (at least, what I've read so far which is very little) is that you can kinda go in whatever direction you want as long as you stick to the overall accepted canon (though saying there is an Arthurian canon is not something I say comfortably) So while you're limited w/ what you can do with the plot, it's really great seeing how different authors interpret the same characters and yet still fit them within the limitations of the overall structure of how the legends usually go With that said, I loved the portrayal of Morgan in this book Morgan is so bad ass! With a backbone of steel and full of anger and hatred, spurred on by vengeance At the same time, she is compassionate, intelligent, and constantly questioning whether she's doing the right thing And even if she isn't, there isn't much she can do She belongs to the land and she makes decisions based on it I think this is an absolutely fantastic portrayal of a woman who takes no prisoners (like, literally), and is consistently awesome, but at the same time very likable, trapped within her own failings/obsessions as anyone else Morgan is a layered, complex character, and Epstein does great justice to her Morgan doesn't do a lot of fancy sword fighting or hand to hand combat But you would never want to cross her I felt the rules of the magic here were particularly well done, which I didn't feel about with The Blue Sword In that book, magic felt like a solution to basically everything and motivated all of the characters' actions In here, the magic is invoked whenever the character (mainly Morgan) is in dire need of it, and she chooses to use magic, rather than magic choosing to use her Annnddd I really liked the ancient Ireland setting, even if I couldn't pronounce anything lol The writing is crisp and concise, which I liked enough because at any rate, it suited Morgan's character very well I couldn't imagine her voice being flowery From my understanding, this isn't a part of the legends that people usually go into, so I'm glad that there's a story out there that goes really indepth into Morgan le Fay's development You're in her mind the entire time and it's incredibly well done I recommend it if you're in the mood for a book that draws on folklore, mythology, history and of course, has a great female protagonist. Note: I received a review copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.[return][return]Young adult novel about what happened to the sorceress Morgan le Fay between the point in her childhood when her father was murdered by Uther Pendragon, and her return as an adult to trouble her halfbrother King Arthur The book opens at the council of war amongst the RomanoBritish leaders where Uter (as it's given in the book) first sets eyes on Ygraine, wife of Gorlois Uter wants Ygraine enough to make war on Gorlois, enough to seek the aid of the magician Merlin and with the death of her beloved father, the child Anna finds herself sent to exile by her mother for her own safety An exile so complete that she must change her name and tell almost noone who she is when she arrives in Ireland A safe place with a distant relative proves less than safe when the tribe loses a battle with its neighbours, and Morgan spends years in slavery, learning a little magic openly from the village wisewoman who owns her, and a great dealmagic in secret Then there is escape, and a few months of peace and study with a new Christian settlement, and then a chance of love with a chieftain's son who can appreciate the knowledge of Roman battle tactics she brings By the time she is eighteen, Morgan has learnt a great many things, but the one thing she has not learnt is how to let go of the need for vengeance It has, after all, kept her alive through the dark times[return][return]I found the book a bit hard to get into at first, but once I got into the rhythm of the writing I was hooked Epstein has taken the historical period of 500AD as the basis for his story, a time when the Roman legions had long withdrawn from Britain but many of the British still thought of themselves as Roman He's drawn on Irish mythology and blended it with modern Wiccan practice to create a believably consistent picture of magic, in a time when both Druid priests and Christian missionaries can draw on the power of the earth, and a young exile can learn to use it to protect herself and the people she loves The result is a solid addition to the Arthurian legend, covering an area not much touched on, and giving a plausible reason for the adult Morgan le Fay to be who she is Here she is a strong and sympathetic character, and it's only too easy to understand why she makes the choices she does.[return][return]The book's been written in such a way that it can be enjoyed both as a freestanding novel suitable for someone not familiar with any of the mythology and literature that has accreted around Arthur, and as a fascinating new contribution to that ongoing literary conversation An excellent YA fantasy novel that should appeal to adults as well. I was equally excited and nervous to receive a copy of Alex Eptstein's The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program Those familiar with the myths will already be aware that very few authors have dealt with Morgan's character except to mention, often merely in passing, that she is Arthur's halfsister, and then immediately cast her as the evil sorceress and mother of his son/nemesis, Mordred Those authors who delve into Morgan at all can't seem to agree whether she is Arthur's sister by his mother or by his father Epstein attempts to fill this void by casting Morgan as Ygraine's daughter by her first husband, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, and then exiling the child to Ireland to protect her from her mother's new husband.Throughout the story, Morgan is a very strongwilled character with a convincing development from vulnerable and curious young girl to steely and determined young woman Luckily, Epstein never falls into the trap of turning her into the tooperfect protagonist common in young adult stories Morgan has flaws; and the reader may often find her less than sympathetic, especially in her dealings with other characters The stories of those other characters add depth and muchneeded contrast to Morgan's situation.The author is very obviously wellversed in mythology and history Drawing from Irish and Cornish mythology as well as modern Wiccan practices, Epstein creates a framework of magic that works for many different people, from Druid priests to village wisewomen to Christian missionaries He has done an admirable job of bringing to life the conflict between the British people who still saw themselves mostly as Roman and the Irish peoples who had very little contact at all with the Roman mindset However, the author does betray some errors: Pelicans do not frequent the Irish Sea, and the threetoed horse had died out long before any of the Celtic peoples reached the British Isles I can forgive these as most readers will probably be unaware of these facts or simply gloss over those passages More serious is the inconsistency of the timeframe: Morgan's time in slavery seems to vary between four, eight, and ten years at various points in the story The unreliable narrator trope does not really account for the differences.Despite those quibbles, the book really is enjoyable, and I look forward to readingof Epstein's work, in this or other settings. (Book) å The Circle Cast ⚛ Morgan le Fay was a sorceress, seducer of King Arthur and destroyer of Britain As Morgan comes of age, she discovers her own magical powers One day she falls in love with a young Irish chieftain But will her drive for revenge destroy her chance for love and happiness? At First Sight: Before the Morgan of legend, she was a girl named Anna Anna who was the beloved daughter of Gorlois, a governor of Britain, and his beautiful wife Ygraine And it was her mother's beauty that destroyed her family.During a council, before all the chiefs of Britain marched out to face the Saxons, Anna's mother caught the eye of Uter Pendragon, and that was the beginning of the end Taking offense of Uter's pursuit of his wife, Gorlois took them all back to their holding and shortly after lost his life at the hands of Uter.Knowing she wouldn't be safe in Britain, Ygraine sent Anna to live with relatives in Ireland; and stayed to help protect their people once Uter showed up to claim his conquest Anna, wild with grief, swore to return one day and avenge her father by killing Uter.Once in Ireland, Anna is gone, becoming Morgan and enduring a lot of things among them the awakening of her mystical powers and slavery until she meets Conall, the son of an Irish Chieftain, whose love might very well spoil her plans of revenge.Second Glance: I'm a nut for all things Arthurian legend and I particularly love the side stories sort of what happens before and in between thewell known stories, which was why I was very excited to read The Circle Cast.And I was instantly drawn into the time and place a mythical, medieval Britain and Ireland and the author really does a wonderful job putting you there I really liked the beginning of the story, how Anna's narrative feels urgent and a little grim and I liked Anna in general But I had big problem with Morgan: I didn't like her The way she's obsessed with revenge put me off a fair bit And what happens with Conall well, I can't really complain about that because I totally knew what I was getting into, but it still bummed me a bit.Bottom Line: Perhaps if I werea fan of Historical Fiction rather than of historical romance, I would have enjoyed this book , because that part of the story was great Personally, I didn't love the characters, but that's entirely because of personal philosophies Otherwise, I think it was a nice read.