Jan 22, 2011

Review: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Title: Here Lies Arthur
Author: Philip Reeve
Publication Year: 2007
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction

Arthur fights giants, rescues maidens and tricks the Devil with his words - or so they say. Gwyna is overwhelmed. She's only a slave-girl and he's a king. Soon Arthur's magician, Myrddin, will show her the real secret behind Arthur's power...

My two cents: Brilliant! I think that one word sums up the whole book pretty well. This was on my wish list for a very long time. I finally managed to get my hands on it last Wednesday.

The book tells the story of Gwyna, a young slave-girl who was taken in by Myrddin. It was through her eyes and mind that the story unfolds. This Arthur is not the Arthur we know from the legend. The whole book, in short, is based on the premise "everyone's heard of King Arthur but no one's ever heard the truth".

Though King Arthur's story has been told many times in hundreds different ways, this is certainly one of the best that I've ever read. It stays true to the legend but with its own twists to every occurrence found in the legend. Arthur wasn't a king or a hero, but just a warlord, motivated by greed and pride to take as much as he could from other warlords. But, it was Myrddin, his advisor as well as a story-spinner, who turned Arthur's struggles into something heroic and magical. These stories told around campfires at nights were convincing enough that people started to believe in Myrddin's Arthur and ignored the fact that the real Arthur was nothing more than just a tyrant.

Kudos to Reeve for writing a very compelling read. Written in a journal-style, it wasn't hard getting into it for it didn't waste time on unnecessary stuff. The author got to the story right on and brilliantly. The main events in the legend were fantastically explained. You can easily see how all the magical and fantasy stuff surrounding the legend came into being.

It is a refreshing take on the legend and in all honesty, I'm glad that it sheds some new light on King Arthur and his knights. If they ever existed, perhaps they were not very much like what has been passed on in legend. Perhaps they were more as depicted in the book. Gwenhywfar might not be a beautiful princess. Bedwyr might not be a strong knight. Medrawt might not be a heartless traitor. And Cei might not be boorish. But does it really matter what the truth was? The people needed a hero, and they got one...known as King Arthur. And he will live on in the stories, no matter what the truth had been. This is exactly the message this book is trying to relay....that in the end, what matters about him was the stories.

A few of my favourite quotes:

"...it didn't matter any longer what the truth had been. The real Arthur had been just a little tyrant in an age of tyrants. What mattered about him was the stories."

"People see what they expect to see, and believe what you tell them to believe."

My verdict: 4.5/5


  1. This sounds like a book that I would enjoy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one!

  2. now this sounds like something i'd really like! thanks for this review Nadea!


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