Here Lies Arthur Mass Market Paperback – Mar 1 2010
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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
About the Author
Philip Reeve is the bestselling author of the Mortal Engines quartet and the forthcoming Fever Crumb. He lives in Dartmoor, England, with his wife and son.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
The whole story is written on a girl named Gwyna's view, who had to dive in the cold, cold water on the start of the book to not get slashed by a sword-boy. She has no families, no friends, and no one to care for her, till she meets Myrddin on the far side of the riverbank. After him noticing her talents of swimming, he takes her under his wings, and gives her a very important task the very next day. It was there, when I learned the "Lies" stands for telling lies for sure, because it was Gwyna who gave Caliburn to Arthur. After successing on his tricks, Myrddin makes her to talk and live like a boy to hide his tricks.
Many days passed, till Gwyna grew in to a noticeable girl. Mealwas figured out that she was a boy, and Myrddin had to find a safe place for her so his tricks would stay hidden. So he sent her to Arthur's palace to spy on Gwenhwyfar. By now she learns much of her master's tricks, and becomes a trickster herself. She becomes closer to Gwenhwyfar and discovers she is in love with a man other then Arthur and after a thought, she tells Myrddin.
The rest of the stories are like this, only that she uses her talent more than she did before. Through Cei, she learns Myrddin loved her and later returns to him, to see him die. Later, after Arthur's death, she spins her tale of how a boat came and took him to an island to live forever. Though Gwyna ran away from Myrddin and broke his heart, she did not forget him, and took him as an only family and so did Myrddin. The book describes Arthur as a selfish greedy man, with Cei as his kin, noble and humble. Myrddin is a clever old fox, traveling across the worlds, spreading wonderful stories of Arthur, making them think Arthur is not the real Arthur at all.
I think Phillip Reeve was trying to tell us that not all stories are true, and yet, anything could be done if you believe it would. It tells us that Myrddin was behind everything and Arthur is just a impatient man, killing everyone on his way, but also that this is a story after all, and no one could tell which one is correct.
The story follows a young girl named Gwyna, who is running away from her home, which is in flames. During her escape she meets a man named Myrddin (who is Merlin) who takes pity on her and allows her a place to stay for a while. However, Myrddin has another use for little Gwyna, she becomes the Lady of the Lake and is the one who gives Arthur his sword Caliburn (Excalibur). After Gwyna gives the sword to Arthur, Myrddin makes her into a boy so she would be able to come with them. During the war-bands travels, Gwyna, now Gwyn, met a girl her age named Peri (who is really a boy named Peredur, or better known as Perceval). The duo play a trick on a "holy man" that causes the holy man to become more holy. Later the war-band takes over the city of Aquae Sulis, making it Arthur's capital. There Arthur meets Gwenhwyfar, whom he is forced to marry. By this time, Gwyna is starting to look more and more like a young woman than a man. Myrddin seeing this decides to change Gwyn back into Gwyna and she goes into to serve Gwenhwyfar. Things slowly goes from bad to worse, almost shadowing the legend. This story is a different viewpoint and a whole different take on the legend of King Arthur.
1) Myrddin. He goes from likable, to vile, to just delusional. The problem I have is that he has all these various mood swings and it throws the reader off. But it's more than that. For the longest time, I thought that Myrddin seemed to be really likable and enjoyable. Then he just changes and becomes a bitter, vile man. Then later on, you learn that the reason he becomes this way seems like a hurried explanation. Because of this, you realize that the whole time he seems to be lost within his own false stories he made up about Arthur. He's still an interesting character, however.
2) Children Story? I saw that this was short-listed for some children story award. Is this really meant to be a children story? Really? With all the nudity, sex, graphic bloodshed, and the curse words, this really doesn't seem to be child friendly. Unless the children stories have changed from when I was young to today.
1) Pacing. The story was a really fast read. It really kept me entertained and excited when I was reading. In fact, I really didn't want to put the story down to long. The chapters were short and quick, only lasting a few pages. The story wasn't bogged down in fancy wording or unimportant details. Gwyna's narration was simple, yet riveting. It was like I was listening to own of Myrddin's tall tales.
2) Villainous Arthur. Arthur was a villain! Seeing him as someone that I really hated was a shock but a shock I really enjoyed. Everyone thinks that Arthur is some sort of immortal hero, always just and true. Yet here, he is a vile, hateful, stupid, cruel man. I have to say I enjoy him like this than as a good man.
3) Dark. The whole story had a darker feel to it. From the beginning, seeing Gwyna's home burn is dark. Then you have the tragic parts of Gwenhwyfar, Bedwyr, and Cei. On top of that Arthur isn't noble and kind. It just felt dark. But it felt so right.
1) Movies. It really seems that Philip Reeve took a lot, a lot of inspiration from movies like 1981's Excalibur. There are some scenes from Excalibur that are taken word for word in this story, the best example the endings are very similar.
2) Legends to Characters. It was fun to try and figure out who was who from the legend to the story. Some were vary obvious; Cei was Kay, Myrddin was Merlin, and Peredur was Perceval. Some where harder to figure out, but it still was interesting seeing who was who.
3) Cover Art. Simple, yet interesting. It seems clean. Seeing Caliburn being held by the Lady of the Lake reminiscent of the movie Excalibur really works well.
This was a fun take on King Arthur's legend. The reason why I thought it was fun is because of how unlike the legend it is. Seeing Arthur as a vile character was different and I thought it works really well. Gwyna is an interesting character, going from girl to boy to girl again and how she deals with everything was fun to read about. It just was a fast paced story and exciting like nothing else.
Mr. Reeve has no poetry in his soul.
I can only presume the title is a clever pun on the word 'lie', because that's the new twist that this author takes on the Arthurian legend. Arthur has nothing to recommend him: a brutal, womanizing, spouse-abusing pig of a man. Merlin (pretentiously Myrddin here) is a cunning atheist/arch manipulator. Nice to see Guenevere is still adulterous, but she's taken down a peg here, too: here, she's ugly. The whole point of the novel a screed on the evils and abuses of propaganda, where we *all* become the dummies who believe the pretty story instead of looking beyond them to the truth. Yes, that's how deep Reeve's cynicism goes--he obliquely attacks anyone with a sense of wonder and believer in larger-than-life as being just as gullible as the great unwashed of the sixth century.
This wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't a Young Adult title. I see my classrooms filled with hopeless, sighing, nihilism and unearned cynicism enough--Reeve's work feeds directly into that. No one and nothing is admirable, and the only recourse is to escape entirely. That's the theme of the book, and I really don't think that's a terrific message to a generation already half tuned-out.
Along its way of demolishing anything bright or admirable about the Arthurian legend, it also takes swipes at Gawain and the Green Knight (though thankfully Reeve was thoughtful enough to leave my beloved Gawain out of this wreck entirely), the Mabinogion, and a few other canonical works--even a vague nod toward Hercules hiding among the women. He claims it's not a 'historical novel', and he's right. He totally ignores the vital Celtic relationship of uncle to sister's son, for example, that makes/would have made the betrayals in the novel even more poignant.
He botches great amounts of history, starting with that no one, not even in the Celtic world, fought any time after harvest. In fact, the novel is anti-history, since, of course, it's all just a lie.
It's a very pretty lie, of course, and I can't fault Reeve's prose. He can write an evocative sentence. The costume/gender changes come almost comically too fast toward the end, and if you're freaked out by crossdressing, this might not work for you. He shifts POV a little roughly--most of the book is from Gwyna's perspective, but it jars out occasionally to someone else.
As a medievalist, I appreciate Reeve's spin, but I can't bring myself to like it. I like my wonder tales with a bit of wonder, and though he claims to love the Arthur mythos, this strikes me as bordering on blasphemy. Read Lloyd Alexander instead.