Thursday 15 June 2023


Book review: Morgan Is My Name by Sophie Keetch

Arthurian legends seem to be the latest slice of fictional history that's getting reinvented (after fairy tale retellings and Greek myth reimaginings) and I love it. I've always been fascinated by this lore thanks to Disney's The Sword in the Stone and the very cheesy but hugely entertaining BBC series Merlin back in the late 2000s. Morgan Is My Name by Sophie Keetch is, you may be able to guess, the story of sorceress Morgan le Fay. But rather than portraying her as the anti-hero, which she so often is, in this novel we hear her side of the story. And it's not as black-and-white as we've always been led to believe.

Morgan is the youngest princess in the house of Tintagel. She is wild and happy running free in her home on the Cornish cliffs. That is, until Uther Pendragon murders her father and forces her mother, Igraine, to marry him. The new king is a brute who tries to bend Morgan to his will, using physical force if needed. But even as a child, Morgan is strong and she doesn't break under his watch. Eventually he gives up trying and sends her off to a nunnery so he doesn't have to deal with her any longer. 

While initially Morgan was crushed about being ripped away from her home and the knight-in-training she is in love with, the dismissal was the best thing that could've possibly happened to her. At the nunnery her intelligence and longing for knowledge is finally reciprocated and she learns things that she would never have been able to in Tintagel. She's happy at the nunnery amongst new friends and getting the opportunity to not only soak up knowledge but also hone her magnificent healing skills. 

So when she's forced to marry a lesser king against her will, just so Uther can force an alliance, Morgan no longer feels powerless. She has a strong perception of what's right and she is poised for a fight. Uther and her new husband don't know what they're getting themselves in for...

Morgan Is My Name does for the famous Arthurian sorceress what Wicked did for the witch Elphaba from The Wizard of Oz: it turns everything we've been told on its head to show the character has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misjudged. This is not someone causing upset and hurt because she relishes seeing other people suffer, on the contrary. Morgan tries her very best to do right by those around her and to make the world a better place. That the men she comes across on her path feel threatened by a powerful woman who knows what she wants, that is their problem. 

I absolutely adored the characterisation of Morgan in this adaption as we see her grow up from strong-willed child to kick-ass feminist (with some special powers to boot!). She faces so many hardships in her life, but she manages to stay true to herself and those around her; those that deserve it at least. And when you can stay good at heart after living through as many adversaries as Morgan has in her young life, that's really saying something. 

While this is very much the story of Morgan, it's of course part of wider Arthurian lore so we also get to know other famous characters from the stories, such as Merlin, from the sidelines. And Arthur himself even makes an appearance towards the end. It was thrilling to witness the moment these two iconic characters met. Morgan and Arthur are tentative about one another at first, but they slowly grow closer, gives us an exciting glimpse of what is yet to come. Will they be powerful allies or moral enemies? I, for one, cannot wait to find out. 

Morgan Is My Name is an incredibly well-researched and well-written reimagining of the Arthurian legend. There is an immense level of detail building up the character of Morgan, showing how nuanced the sorceress really is and making her hugely relatable to modern readers. And we've only seen a glimpse so far of what she's capable of. Now the story has gotten to the pivotal point of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king, I'm beyond excited to find out how Morgan's story will evolve alongside his and what role she'll play in the establishment of Camelot. Author Sophie Keetch left the door wide open at the end of this novel to continue the legend and I already cannot wait for more!

Morgan Is My Name by Sophie Keetch is published today by Oneworld Publications and you can now buy a copy from your favourite local book shop!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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