Credit: oneworld publishing

Morgan Is My Name, reviewed

Morgan is my Name is the first book of an upcoming trilogy by Sophie Keetch, portraying the life of the mythical sorceress of Arthurian legend. Following  a wave of feminist mythological retellings, Morgan’s story explores tribal, post-Roman Britain in its glory days of legend. Far from the mud huts and ignorance of the supposed “dark ages”, the tale that unfolds is one of knowledge and cultural development, throughout the heyday of monastic life and science. 

The story begins in the Duchy of Cornwall, in Tintagel Castle. Morgan’s parents Gorlois and Igraine come into conflict with the entitled King Uther Pendragon, who claims to love Igraine and intends to take her by force. However, despite killing Gorlois in battle, he is forced to enlist the help of the sorcerer Merlin (who in Keetch’s story is far from Colin Morgan’s portrayal) to disguise him as the late Gorlois, deceiving Igraine, and leading to the conception of the legendary King Arthur. 

It is in this chaos that Morgan’s story begins. The primary question explored in the remainder of the novel is one of power – who holds it, and from whom it can be derived. Men and God are the accepted answers to both. Morgan’s struggle is  finding and maintaining her autonomy, a plot drive that reveals a world of women’s power hidden within a patriarchal system weaving women back into both legend and history.

Early hints at this struggle for self are in the title itself, which hints at the power contained within a name. Morgan is my name, derived from the Welsh for ‘sea-born’, rather than the more commonly used, and decidedly feminine, ‘Morgana’, seen in depictions like BBC’s Merlin. This conflict for proper recognition is relevant as ever, in a cultural climate of discourse around recognition of names and nominative gender. Arthurian legend typically dissociated monstrous deeds from femininity, and so portraying Morgan as flawed and multifaceted is as rebellious as the heroine herself.

The source material is something of a writer’s dream:  fragmented, conflicting, but abundant. Keetch navigates the various depictions of her heroine skilfully, depicting the legendary woman who is alternately friend and foe to King Arthur. How the author chooses to portray this in the next two books of the trilogy remains to be seen. Is Morgan truly malevolent, or a woman villainised for straying from what is expected?

Keetch’s writing is powerfully emotive, cleverly weaving a narrative of womens’ independence in a man’s world. The story makes skilful, but subtle use of metaphor to explore this staple of British legend, building a layered tale of femininity, authority and love which is a joy to watch unfold. The second book, Le Fay is due to be published 18 July 2024.

Image Credit: Oneworld Publications

Image Description: Cover of Morgan is my Name