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Here Lies Arthur

A book by Philip Reeve

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Realistic Arthur

  • Nov 27, 2008
  • by
Ah, King Arthur. Has any figure from legend become more... well, legendary? Just looking around at my personal possessions at home, I find that I own books about Arthur (Knight Life, One Knight Only and The Fall of Knight), as well as a couple movies (Excalibur and Monty Python's Holy Grail). I've even used it as a jumping-off point for my own works. As a storyteller within my own universe of role-playing games, I have a vampire character based of Sir Tristan and a story centering around the true origins of Excalibur and Merlin was a major turning point in my gaming universe.

Then of course there's all the other Arthur-related stuff out there. Everything from The Once and Future King to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, to things like Merlin and The Mists of Avalon and The Sword in the Stone. Truly, one would be hard-pressed to find a greater inspiration for much of Western culture than the stories of King Arthur. Only the Bible comes to mind as a great rival to the title.

Now comes Here Lies Arthur, a young-adult book that tries to tell a more "historical" version of Arthur, making him a borderline barbarian only made great through the efforts of his bard, Myrddin. Most of the major characters of the Arthur stories are here and recognizable, though often with names different from what we're used to (Sir Kay is named Cei, Sir Bevedere is Bedwyr, Percival is Perdur). Absent are Morgan le Fey, Modred and Lancelot (who, from what I recall, was originally a French character who got added to the mythos around the 12th century), but they aren't missed.

The tale is told through the eyes of a young sometimes-girl, Gwyna. She turns up when her master's farm is attacked by Arthur's raiders. She escapes and swims to safety where Myrddin rescues her. Impressed by her ability to hold her breath, he comes up with a plan to have her hide under water and pass a certain sword onto a certain barbarian warlord (though as well all know, watery tarts distributing swords is no basis for a system of government).

From there Gwyna winds up spending a great deal of time hanging out with Arthur's merry band of raiders. Most of this time she spends in the company of Myrddin, learning all she can from the old man (mostly learning about the power of stories, something fans of Terry Pratchett will find to be a familiar concept). She's present for some of the great moments of the myth, like the introduction of the Round Table and is the one who finds out that Arthur's wife is not perhaps as loyal to him as he might wish.

The book is well-written and entertaining and obviously heavily researched. It tells a good tale of what life might've been like during the time after the Romans left England but before the Saxons took over completely. It offers a good explanation for how much of the Arthurian legends might've come to be.

The one slightly weak point for me was the character of Gwyna. She's mostly a passive observer who doesn't do terribly much to advance the story (though she does help a young girl named Peri come to a realization about herself). Mostly Gwyna is just sort of there, watching and listening and being our eyes and ears. There's nothing really wrong with this per se, but a better story might've been done through the viewpoint of Myrddin.

Still, for anyone looking for a more historical, but still fictional, version of Arthur, you might well enjoy this book.

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More Here Lies Arthur reviews
review by . May 16, 2009
Although I am very interested in the Arthurian tales & legends, I generally stay away from novels because I have been very disappointed, even horrified, in the past. Until this book, I had only read two that were satisfying (The Once & Future King and The Mists Of Avalon).     This book is not as well written as the two previously mentioned works. It is written for a younger audience, probably 12-14 year olds. In the story, we see things through the eyes of a young girl …
review by . December 11, 2008
We've all heard the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A young Arthur learns of his kingly destiny by pulling the sword from the stone. He is a fair and much loved ruler who weds the beautiful Guinevere. We also know of Guinevere's betrayal and her deep love for Lancelot.     It's a fabulous story but what if that's all it is? Maybe it's not the true story at all. Perhaps the real story is much grittier and far less polished.     Here …
review by . December 08, 2008
"Here Lies Arthur" is 333 pages of quick, easy and enjoyable reading. The start is a bit slow, but the text is well suited for the young adult target audience. Some of the battle scenes are a bit gory and might not be appropriate for a young reader.    Gwyna is a new, fictional character the author created and is the primary point of view through which the story is told.    Arthur is not the classical, heroic, romanticized figure of most King Arthur tales. …
review by . December 02, 2008
I was eager to read this book. I am a serious Arthurian legend fanatic & am always hoping to find something that is as enthralling as the Marion Zimmer Bradley series - which I could not put down. This book has glimmers of hope and some chapters that truly are are enticing but I found too many adjectives & not enough pith in many areas. I think that anyone with a yen for an Arthurian tale will most assuredly enjoy this book - younger readers will find it especially pleasing I think. There is good …
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C R Swanson ()
Ranked #59
   I'm an aspiring writer and reviewer. I run a blog, I'm working on a novel and spend my free time reading and playing video games. I also spend waaaaay too much time and money on movies. … more
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About this book


Everyone's heard of King Arthur, but until now, no one's ever heard the truth.

Gwynna is just a girl who is forced to run when her village is attacked and burns to the ground.  To her horror, she is discovered in the wood.  But it is Myrddin the bard who has found her, a traveler and spinner of tales.  He agrees to protect Gwynna if she will agree to be bound in service to him.  Gwynna is frightened but intrigued - and says yes - for this Myrddin serves the young, rough, and powerful Arthur.

In the course of their travels, Myrddin transforms Gwynna into the mysterious Lady of the Lake, a boy warrior, and a spy.  It is part of a plot to transform Arthur from the leader of a ragtag war-band into King Arthur, the greatest hero of all time.

If Gwynna and Myrrdin's trickery is discovered, what will become of Gwynna?  Worse, what will become of Arthur?  Only the endless battling, the mighty belief of men, and the sheer cunning of one remarkable girl will tell.
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ISBN-10: 0545093341
ISBN-13: 978-0545093347
Author: Philip Reeve
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Children's Books
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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"Realistic Arthur"
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