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Here Lies Arthur Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545094631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545094634
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #817,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Reeve offers up a revisionist retelling of the Arthurian legend, set in southwest Britain in A.D. 500, and exposing the dark side of Camelot. Arthur is a brutal, bullying tyrant, and not terribly bright. His fame stems solely from the stories spun by Myrrdin, a traveling bard and trickster. But this story is not primarily Arthur's. It is Gwyna's, a child who is rescued by Myrddin when her village is sacked and burned. Myrrdin takes her under his care, disguising her first as the Lady of the Lake, and then as a boy. When adolescence arrives, Myrrdin reintroduces her to Arthur's court as a maid and she falls in love with Peredur, who has spent his childhood disguised as a girl. While the switching sexual identities may keep readers a bit off kilter, having the narrator be both Gwyn and Gwyna allows a dual perspective on Arthurian times. Reeve does not shy away from violence and gory battle scenes. When Arthur learns that his wife Gwenhwyfar is committing adultery with his young nephew, he beats and beheads Bedwyr in a particularly bloody episode. Gwenhwyfar is driven to suicide. Gwyna learns that Arthur's heroism and fame stem not from magic and noble deeds but rather from the stories Myrrdin spins. Indeed, with his death, she picks up his mantle. The power of stories is a theme of the novel. Reeve's usual lyrical, cinematic prose underscores the message that in the end perhaps they are the only things that matter. A multilayered tour de force for mature young readers.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Powerfully inventive, yet less romanticized than most stories set in the medieval Britain, this novel retells the story of King Arthur from a fresh perspective. Readers first glimpse Gwyna, the novel’s disarming narrator, as “a snot-nosed girl” hiding in the brambles from a marauding band of brutes led by Arthur, “the King that Was and Will Be.” Taken under the wing of the king’s bard and advisor, Myddrin (the Merlin figure), who disguises her first as a lad and then as that fictional lad’s half sister, Gwyna takes part in or observes many significant scenes, from the day Arthur takes the sword offered by a lady beneath a lake until the day of his death. In Gwyna’s telling, many traditionally esteemed characters are revealed as unworthy, and some reviled ones are shown as heroic. Seemingly supernatural elements of the storied events are shown to be mere conjuring tricks, while the most magical power that Myddrin wields is the creative storytelling that shapes history into legend and makes it immortal. Events rush headlong toward the inevitable ending, but Gwyna’s observations illuminate them in a new way. Arthurian lore has inspired many novels for young people, but few as arresting or compelling as this one. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I will add, though, that I feel like this is one of those books I may feel different about in time.
This book is a refreshing revision on the Arthurian legend and will be enjoyed by all fans of historical fantasy as well as those curious about King Arthur.
A Bookshelf Monstrosity
I did not care for the main character, and as a result this book took quite a bit longer to wade through than it otherwise could have.
Matthew K. Morgan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Lawrenz VINE VOICE on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Schensted VINE VOICE on January 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on December 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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).
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