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Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Posted by travizzt on January 1, 2010

This is a different kind of King Arthur story, but is it something you want to see in Camelot? Or would you rather have Merlin make it disappear?


Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve- This novel is a different story about the King Arthur legend.

The story follows a 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 Aquae Sulis, making it Arthur’s capital. There Arthur meets Gwenhwyfar, whom he is really forced into marrying him. 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.

Negatives:
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 he was always 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’s 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.

Positives:
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 who 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.

Side Notes:
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, for the most part, taken word for word in this story, the best example the endings are very similar.
2) Legends to Characters. It was fun to try to figure out who was who from the legend to the story. Some were very 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.

Overall: 5/5
Final Thoughts:
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.

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