Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

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Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: Children and adults alike will find plenty to enjoy in this interesting and original take on the King Arthur legends.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407103587

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Philip Reeve is not an author I've encountered before. My younger sister gave me a rather dubious review of his Mortal Engines quartet, so I approached this book with doubts. I was very pleased to find them unfounded.

Here Lies Arthur is a retelling of the famous King Arthur legends, through the eyes of Gwyna, a young servant girl who encounters Myrddin (Merlin) after her home is destroyed by Arthur and his men.

The story follows her journey by Myrddin's side. Myrddin, Arthur's magician, uses words and stories to weave his magic, transforming Arthur from a common bandit to a warrior worthy of leading all Britain against the Saxons. As Gwyna's life becomes entwined with Arthur's she finds herself travelling up and down the country, transformed into a boy and playing a vital role in creating the legends we know and love.

Though Reeve is quick to say it's not a historical novel, it is obvious he has done his research, and not once did I find myself questioning his authority on any of the subjects explored. Yet the novel is not overburdened by his knowledge and research. It never feels like a lecture on what life would have been like in 5th Century Britain.

A slight point of annoyance is the character names. While historically accurate, trying to wrap your head and your tongue around names like Clachvynydd and Ynys Wydryn rather breaks up the otherwise relentless pace of the narrative.

Reeve does include a list of pronunciations at the back (and in the Scholastic paperback version of the book it is on the very last page so you don't have to search through pages of advertising and previews to find it) but flicking back and forth between it and your current page can be annoying. However, I found by about page sixty I knew enough of the names that I could guess how to read the rest.

A benefit of the unusual names is it made it harder to recognise the well known characters. I'm very familiar with the Arthur legends, and while I recognised some of the more major players as soon as they were mentioned, it was nice how some of the secondary characters blended into the story. Reeve maintained an excellent balance between what was familiar, and his own original take on the stories.

Children and adults alike will find plenty to enjoy in this novel. The main character is gutsy and relatable, the action is fast paced and intense, with smatterings of humour throughout.

There is a lot of violence, and Reeve doesn't shy away from the brutal nature of battle and life in the dark ages. However, the description is never gratuitous and only the most sensitive of children would find it disturbing. Any child remotely like I was when I was ten will probably lap it up. A small note for parents considering this book for their children – it does have a few swear words. While none are particularly bad, nor are they used frequently or inappropriately, they are there.

The ingenious concept of Myrddin creating the man we know as King Arthur with campfire stories and a little trickery alone would have been enough to spin out a fresh take on the legend. The inclusion of touching friendships, romance and Gwyna's personal journey to forge an identity in a life where she is often forced to pretend to be someone else, lifts this novel from being a dry recycling of a story we've heard a hundred times before, into the hugely enjoyable success it is.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

People who enjoyed this, may also enjoy The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, The Waking World (The Future King) by Tom Huddleston or Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo.

Booklists.jpg Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.

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Buy Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve at


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