The legend of King Arthur has probably generated more ink than any other in the English language. The story has taken many twists and turns and been examined at many angles and in various viewpoints. Often, the king has been a hero. Sometimes not. Philip Reeve’s young-adult novel takes the latter turn. So those who have gorged themselves on tales that have nearly deified the man will be a bit disappointed by this “truth.”
This tale sees through the eyes of a young girl named Gwyna, whose village is burned by Arthur’s band. Rather than becoming another victim, by some chance she instead gets sucked into the world of the power-hungry marauder when the bard Myrddin finds some of her strengths useful. Myrddin, rather than being a powerful magician, is the ultimate spin doctor, a politician’s dream come true. He advises Arthur and then turns his exploits into glamorous tales of valor, spreading the ascendant king’s fame throughout the countryside.
Gwyna plays a key role in the famous story of Arthur’s extraction of his sword, a clever setup staged by Myrddin. She then goes on to live as a boy for some time as she assists Myrddin. She observes and learns and wonders. By the end, she and the reader may be either dismayed, disillusioned, or still clinging to some hope.
However it is read or interpreted, Here Lies Arthur is an interesting, worthy take on an old tale, full of possibilities and definitely thought-provoking.
Rated: Moderate for language and some sexuality (mild by my “adult literature” standards). Some 10 to 15 uses of mild to moderate language, generally involving bodily functions, appear. There is also some description of nudity and very mild description of sexual liaisons. The men in the marauding bands can be a bit rough.