Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: Here Lies Arthur

by Philip Reeve
Start Date: 30 August 2011
End Date: 2 September 2011
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Scholastic, Inc.

Summary (from Goodreads):
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.

My Review:
I was a little bit hesitant to begin Here Lies Arthur, but I'm very glad I reread it. When I chose to read it for FOOF, I didn't remember much about it, but I vaguely remembered liking it well enough and I wanted to give it another try. Now, I'm amazed that I ever forgot about it.

Reeve says in an author's note at the end of the book that Here Lies Arthur is not a historical novel, it feels so real that it easily could have been. It's obvious that Reeve did extensive research before writing this book. I don't know much about the stories surrounding King Arthur, but it seemed like Reeve did a great job taking the myths and making them real.

I really like this cover because it shows
a totally different aspect of the book;
both covers work with this story, but
they emphasize different parts.
Which do you prefer?
At first, the story appears to meander a bit, but I didn't mind as it was always moving forward and there weren't any dragging parts. But by the second half, all of the parts that seem less important in the beginning connect back so that the story is a tightly knit web, which I appreciated.

Reeve did a great job creating all of the character in Here Lies Arthur. I got very attached to all of them - not only Gwyna but also Myrridin and Bedwyr and Gwenhyfar and Peredur (oh, Peredur!).  In some books, I'm content to watch the characters go through their lives, but in this one, Reeve made me live through the events with Gwyna. If you're the kind of person who reacts out loud to books, don't read this one around other people. Although I'm not one of those people, my throat still gets tight (two weeks later) when I think of some of the scenes. If I was a crier, this book would have made me cry.

I connected with all of the characters, but I especially liked Myriddin, the bard (Merlin in some later retellings of Arthurian legends). He was the brains behind Arthur's whole operation, spreading the stories of the legendary King Arthur who would unite all of the Britons against the Saxons and push them out of Britain forever. As Reeve puts it, "The real Arthur had just been a tyrant in an age of tyrants. What mattered about him was the stories" (Reeve 331).   Myriddin uses the power of stories to rally the Britons behind Arthur, and it is Myriddin's stories that live on to become our legends of King Arthur.

Here Lies Arthur is a bit more mature than most of the books I review on this blog, and it's also a little bit darker. Most of the time, I need my happy ending. I'm not going to reveal the ending, but although in a sense it all works out, there is a lot of hardship Gwyna goes through in order to get to that point. I would recommend it to older teens.

Click to enlarge
For younger teens or middle grade readers, I'd recommend Reeve's Larklight trilogy. It's written in a completely different style - I never would have guessed that they were written by the same author, but I loved it nevertheless. I also remember liking Reeve's Mortal Engines books, but although they're not as mature as Here Lies Arthur, I'd call them YA rather than MG.

On a side note, Here Lies Arthur is dedicated to Geraldine McCaughrean, who wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet (which I am reading now). I thought this was a funny coincidence until I looked up Ms. McCaughrean and found out she has written more than 150 books. (Wow!)

Overall thoughts: Here Lies Arthur was an excellent historical novel. It was wonderfully written and I felt as though I was living through the events alongside the characters. Recommended for older teens.

I read this book for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.


Small Review said...

Excellent! I have this on my TBR, but I wasn't sure what to expect. I am a crier, so I'll make sure to read it at home and not at work :)

"But by the second half, all of the parts that seem less important in the beginning connect back so that the story is a tightly knit web,"

That's exactly the kind of stuff I love and want to know about!

Pica said...

Yay! So glad to be able to push this up on your TBR. I'd love to know what you think of it.


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