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Here Lies Arthur [Library Binding]

Philip Reeve
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 1 2010 0606105573 978-0606105576
Gwyna is just a small girl, a mouse, when she is bound in service to Myrddin the bard - a traveller and spinner of tales. But Myrddin transfroms her - into a lady goddess, a boy warrior, and a spy. Without Gwyna, Myrddin will not be able to work the most glorious transformation of all - and turn the leader of a raggle-taggle war-band into King Arthur, the greatest hero of all time.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

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Praise for Here Lies Arthur

School Library Journal Best Book of 2008
Booklist Editors' Choice for 2008
2009 ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Childrenn's Book for 2009
USBBY Outstanding International Book 2009
Winner of the 2008 CILIP Carnegie Medal

"Smart teens will love this." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A multilayered tour de force" — School Library Journal, starred review

"Arthurian lore has inspired many novels for young people, but few as arresting or compelling as this one." Booklist, starred review

"Reeve's brilliant, brutal re-creation of Arthurian myth is a study in balance and contradiction: it is bleak yet tender; impeccably historical, yet distinctly timely." — Horn Book, starred review

"Absorbing, thought-provoking and unexpectedly timely." Kirkus Reviews, starred review --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

PHILIP REEVE is the bestselling author of the Mortal Engines quartet and the Larklight series. He lives in Dartmoor, England, with his wife and son. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Here Lies Arthur Dec 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 Lies Arthur tells of an alternative Arthur and Camelot. No magic, just some very good spin doctoring and a few well acted out scenes to create a certain persona for Arthur. The story is told through the eyes of Gwyna, the girl who acted the part of the Lady of the Lake. This little scene went over so well that even Arthur himself believed that the incident actually occurred. Then there's the truth behind the Queen's betrayal...You'll have to read the book and find out yourself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  92 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining nonstandard Authurian retelling Feb. 17 2009
By S. Lawrenz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Here Lies Arthur is an alternative take on the Arthurian legend, centering on the adventures of a young English girl named Gwynna. Made homeless when the Arthur of legend and his war band sack the homestead of her lord, she flees the battle and is later rescued in the woods by Myrddin, a bard who serves Arthur as an advisor and magician. Myrddin, a man who is agnostic by nature, uses Gwynna to masquerade as the lady of the lake and then raises her as a boy through the early part of her life. Gwynna watches the exploits of Arthur as she grows up, contrasting the rough, brutal man with the heroic stories Myrddin creates about him. The book ultimately follows her adventures and how they are intertwined with the legend of Arthur.

Written by Philip Reeve, the author of the notable and very odd, Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles) science fiction series, Here Lies Arthur was originally published in England in 2007 to good reviews and a few awards. It now has made its way across the pond and has been published in the United States.

Unlike many of the fantasy style recountings of the Arthurian saga, Reeve chooses a realistic approach, framing the Arthurian saga in a more realistic world, made with politics and rough men who fit the period. Presented in the first person as narrated by the girl Gwynna, there is no magic in this story aside from that which Myrddin makes reference to in the many tall tales he tells to help establish Arthur as a hero.

Arthur himself is a rough and mostly non-heroic personage, who gains fame not through his own actions, but through the stories spun by Myrddin. Myrddin, who hopes to find a leader to unite England to stave off the depredations of the lawless world around them, is a charlatan with a ruthless nature. He only rescues Gwynna because she might serve a useful purpose to that effect. This is not the heroic tale of old, but a story of flawed men in a brutal world.

Reeve is a good writer. His style is solid and readable, and this book certainly is well written enough to keep one's attention. I have a few quibbles with his choice to switch from past tense to present tense on occasion. It breaks the flow of the story and seems to serve no purpose. But I suppose it was an artistic conceit.

I've always found the realistic take on legends to be an interesting artistic device. Reeve is not the first to do this sort of thing, though I think it's the first time I've seen it done with the Arthurian legend to such depth. And it's a fun tale in some regards, one which takes the old standards and characters of the legend and puts them into a realistic context. He does a good job of it too. It was fun linking the characters to the legend and seeing what he did with them.

That said, I have to admit that a lot of Young Adult fiction leaves me cold these days with its dark take on everything. In this case, it's almost like Reeve wanted to throw cold water onto all of the mythic and magical Arthurian legends by painting Arthur as much of a brutal product of his era as he possibly could. There is an underlying depressed tone to the whole tale, filled with the cynicism of its main character. The whole bent of the tale is that heroes are never what the legends say they are and that stories have more power than real people do. It's not really a worldview I subscribe to entirely, though I suppose it does have some truth to it.

In any case, if one is willing to overlook the tone of the novel, it is quite readable and somewhat entertaining. Reeve's fresh take on a well known legend will definitely appeal to a lot of readers.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Twist on the Traditional Jan. 9 2009
By Lisa Schensted - Published on
in a sentence: Gwyna, a servant girl left behind after one of Arthur's raids, catches the eye of the famous wizard Myrddin. after Myrddin spots what might be some form of usefulness in the plain-faced orphan, Gwyna is in over her head and getting wrapped up in the legendary tale of Arthur.

we first meet little Gwyna as she's running away from the burning place she used to call home. a servant girl, used to being ignored (when she's not being kicked around), is shocked by the seeming kindness from the tall and clever storyteller. Myrddin has been spending his time weaving tales about wonderful and fantastic Arthur, although Gwyna knows just how crude, beastly, and aggressive Arthur really is.

without giving away any of the plot, Reeve takes the reader through some of the more famous people in the Arthurian legend. we meet Myrddin (Merlin), Arthur, Cei (Arthur's half-bro), Gwenhhwyfar (Guenevere), and others. this is not an "oh-my-gosh-Arthur-is-the-greatest-ever!" book. far from it. Reeve explores what some of the myths might have actually been like before the test of time and the romanticizing of the legend. mostly, the focus is on Gwyna, who is the narrator and Myrddin as the master behind Arthur's power.

while this is a clever idea with beautiful writing and turns of phrase, and creative characters, i found myself bored at points. Gwyna made a great narrator, though i felt that her self-professed plainness seeped through to her character development. there were insightful musings on what boys are like, what girls are like, why girls aren't mentioned in famous legends unless as a bad person or as a prize for the men, why war was glamorized, etc. the weaving of myth and reality made for excellent story-telling techniques, but i can't help feeling that there was so much potential to be tapped here, and it just fell flat for me.

fave quote: "The real Arthur had been just a little tyrant in an age of tyrants. What mattered about him was the stories." (331)

fix er up: the pacing of the book. the elaborate visual storytelling techniques and fresh ideas couldn't make up for the sluggish pace for me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but not a favorite. Jan. 14 2009
By Rebecca Herman - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book was a decent version of the Arthurian legend, although not my favorite. The main character is a girl named Gwyna who, after her village is destroyed, has to work for Myrddin, the novel's version of Merlin. Over the years he has her perform different roles for him in various diguises.

This was a rather dark retelling of the Arthur story - in this version he is a rather brutal king who is only famous because of the stories Myrddin tells about him. Teenagers and adults who are extremely interested in the subject might enjoy the book as a new twist on the story, but readers without much of an interest in the subject matter will probably want to pass on it, it's nothing special on it's own in my opinion, and I found it a bit depressing honestly.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a fantasy Dec 10 2008
By Avid Reader - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
One of the reviewers here labels this a good historical fantasy, but this is not a fantasy at all. It's a very grim and gritty version of Arthur and Merlin/Myrddin where Arthur, The Bear, has a fleshy face, thick neck, and small and dark eyes and is a raider who in one scene kicks a man in the face until his teeth come out. Ribbons of blood are always flowing downstream. Gwyn/Gwyna the hero/heroine is always going through nettles and gorse and diving naked into pools in the middle of winter. It's brought up again and again how unattractive she is. It's one of those very simply written kids' books but with very adult themes: violence, bloodshed, adultery, suicide, etc. It's up for awards in England. Merlin, due to losing his family at the hand of the Saxons, and being made a slave by them tries to build this boorish raider into a great king and fails tragically. There's no magic, just conniving. Gwyn learns to be almost as big a conniver as Myrddin and helps broaden the Arthur legend after his gruesomely bloody death, one eye gone, blood slopping out. I guess the point I'm trying to get across is that the book is not for some kids, so don't buy it hoping for A Sword in the Stone to give it to some young one who loves the magic of the Arthur legend. Buy it for the realism of that period in England's history.

My giving it two stars is due to the failure of the book to keep me interested. I'm someone who doesn't mind realistic portrayals. I guess I thought it was too gritty at times, the negatives piling up again and again. The only beauty I seem to remember portrayed was the knights in red cloaks on white horses. Maybe this book can be used to lead kids gently into reading George R. R. Martin's series on the Lannisters (which I love, by the way). My big issue is with the simplicity of the writing: "The little girls laugh, the bigger ones chatter. Even Lady Gwenhwyfar, going ahead of us, is smiling. We are going to picnic by the riverside." I want something with a little more richness of detail.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment from Scholastic Press Dec 31 2008
By Eileen Cunningham - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.
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