Friday, May 27, 2011

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Here Lies Arthur tells the story of Gwyna, a young girl cast out of her home when King Arthur's raiding party destroys her village. When she swims to safety, she's noticed by Myrddin, who enlists her to deliver the sword Caliburn to Arthur as the Lady of the Lake. Then Myrddin takes her in, but disguises her as a boy to allay suspicion.

The narrative follows the bare bones of Arthurian Legend, stripped of magic but with trickery and storytelling aplenty. Gwyna/Gwyn (her male self) is thick in the midst of the story, giving a new perspective to the characters and shedding light on the fact that the Arthur of Myrddin's stories is a far cry from the actual Arthur.

I had trouble getting into this, although it's a fairly quick read, aimed at middle schoolers. It was hard to find a sympathetic character; nobody fell into a particularly flattering light in this version of the story. However, that's also part of what made it interesting. The best thing about this book is the way it explores the birth and growth of myths and legends, and how sometimes you just can't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Overall I enjoyed this, but it was far from my favorite reimagining of the Arthurian mythos. I'm not sure how I feel about it as an introductory story for this legend; it's rather depressing although the ending is not a total downer. It's worth checking out if you want a unique perspective on the stories.

Philip Reeve's website is here.

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