Call me old-fashioned, but as a parent and teacher, I have generally assumed that a book from Scholastic Press would not, if books were rated like movies, have an R rating for language, frontal nudity, gender confusion, and adult themes. Just because the narrator is a youth does not make the book suitable for all youth, and just because Philip Reeve has appropriated the King Arthur theme does not make his book suitable for schools.
That Britons fighting Anglo-Saxons use four-letter Anglo-Saxon words for body functions is ironic to the point of comedic. That Christians are consistently portrayed as hypocrites or villains while the "old gods" persist as better spirits seems a view of the twenty-first century, not the fifth. That the traditional good guy (Arthur) is the villain and the traditional bad guy (Mordred, or Medwrat) is a sensitive figure is just silly. Now, if Reeve had intended to show that Arthur and bishops, like all mortals, could have been flawed men, he would have had a more believable take on the characters. However, Reeve has simply transposed the villains and heroes. The persistence of unflawed characters in the book, then, renders its classification as a reality check on human nature an impossibility.
Holt's *Adventures in Appreciation*, a high school literature textbook published in 1996, points out that each generation takes the Arthurian legend and makes it its own, a principle that kept rattling around in my head as I read this book. If one combines that thought with another from Gene Veith--that post-modernists consider the primary use of language as a mask for the truth--it is easier to understand this book. For example, the Merlin figure (called Myrddin by Reeve) is presented as a storyteller whose primary purpose is to spin false legends about an evil warlord (Arthur) to enhance the "king's" prestige in an effort to consolidate Britons against the Saxons. In fact, the very title of the book, *Here Lies Arthur*, is a double entendre perceived more aptly as *Here Arthur Tells Lies*.
All of the supernatural elements of the old legend, thus, become circus tricks engineered by a nasty bard who commits acts of treachery and questionable behavior toward the young. Mix this together with the girl who is raised as a boy and the boy who is raised as a girl and you have a legend that leaves the reader wondering--why? Perhaps if Reeve had spun his tale of treachery and gender confusion in a Britano-Saxon setting without the Arthurian trimmings, the tale would have been more acceptable. As it is, I was simply left with the feeling that Reeve had piggy-backed his tale on the fame of King Arthur in order to make a few more sales. Unless students are researching how various generations adapt the legend of Arthur, I'd send them elsewhere for a tale of Camelot.