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Here Lies Arthur Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • 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
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,969,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Lawrenz VINE VOICE on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Synopsis:
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.

Review
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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was incredibly excited about this book after reading the summary, and thought that the plot sounded brilliant; the idea of Arthurian lore stemming from a clever con artist sounded quite fun. I was expecting a nontrivial portion of the book to focus on these cons, to have Myrddin play a more involved role, and to have a few moments of "cynical humor."

Approached with these expectations, however, the book was disappointing. The plot moved relatively slowly, even though the book encompassed many years. I also didn't grow attached to any of the characters, and again, this might have been because the book tried to cover too many years -- people change over time, and if you only get small "snippets" of them at various points, it's hard to gain any insight into their true, enduring traits. As a character, Myrddin was at least interesting, but often played a cursory role.

That said, it was a great book to read during an exam term -- it was engaging enough that I enjoyed reading it at night, but it certainly did not keep me up reading, and I was easily able to put it down to go to bed. The writing was also pretty solid, and I think the book could be appropriate for a wide range of audiences.

BOTTOM LINE: If you're short on books to read, this one isn't the worst to add to your queue, but I also don't think it's one of the best. If you're looking for a more "fun" book like the show Leverage, look elsewhere. If you're fascinated by Arthurian lore, and want to read an interesting take on the legends, then this books probably worth a read.
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