Here Lies Arthur

Author: Phillip Reeve

Series: None

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Fiction

Gwynna is just a girl who is forced to run when her village is attacked and burns to the ground. To her horror, she is discovered in the wood. But it is Myrddin the bard who has found her, a traveler and spinner of tales. He agrees to protect Gwynna if she will agree to be bound in service to him. Gwynna is frightened but intrigued-and says yes-for this Myrddin serves the young, rough, and powerful Arthur. In the course of their travels, Myrddin transforms Gwynna into the mysterious Lady of the Lake, a boy warrior, and a spy. It is part of a plot to transform Arthur from the leader of  a ragtag war band into King Arthur, the greatest hero of all time. If Gwynna and Myrrdin’s trickery is discovered, what will become of Gwynna? Worse, what will become of Arthur? Only the endless battling, the mighty belief of men, and the sheer cunning of one remarkable girl will tell.

Positive Content: Several of the knights are honorable men who love their family and look out for each other. Myrddin truly loves Gwynna and tries to do what is best for her. Several people look out for and try to protect one another.

Negative Content: Myrddin’s whole career is based on exagerrating – even lying about – Arthur’s exploits, a habit which Gwynna picks up. In order to act as Lady of the Lake, Gwynna takes off all her clothes on two occassions. Nothing explicit except the second time a boy takes notice of her unclothed chest. For much of her life Gwynna is disguised as a boy, and takes on their mannerisms and characteristics. Another boy is just the opposite; in order to keep him safe, his mother has convinced him that he’s a girl. Once he discovers he is, in fact, a boy, he isn’t quite sure what to do. Several relatively bloody battles are fought. A woman drowns herself. Gwynna is so frightened she wets herself once. Several references are made of performing bathroom functions. There is the famous ‘Guinevere/Lancelot’ affair, though it is dealt with fairly tactfully. Gwynna has to interrupt them once, but all that is mentioned is that they ‘untangle’ themselves from each other (they were apparently unclothed).

But the thing that really irritated me about this book was the way Christians and God were viewed. God is often called ‘the new God’ and seen as nothing more than a ‘trend,’ like the old gods. Most of the Christians in the book are portrayed as ridiculous, deceitful and hypocritical. God’s name is spoken a few times in a way that may or may not be in vain.

Summary: This book sort of dashed my romantic view of King Arthur onto the rocks. It also wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. However, the character of Myrddin is interesting. The whole story is interesting… though not all of it is positive. The whole girl-dressing-as-boy and boy-believing-he’s-female thing, while not perverse, was… strange. Here Lies Arthur makes me want to go read Sir Thomas Mallory or Stephen Lawhead – someone with a better, nobler view of who King Arthur might have been.

Age: 16+

3 out of 5 stars


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