This is a brand new novel from a leading children's author. Gwyna is just a small girl, a mouse, when she is bound in service to Myrddin the bard - a traveller and spinner of tales. But Myrdin transfroms her - into a lady goddess, a boy warrior, and a spy. Without Gwyna, Myrddin will not be able to work the most glorious transformation of all - ...
This is a brand new novel from a leading children's author. Gwyna is just a small girl, a mouse, when she is bound in service to Myrddin the bard - a traveller and spinner of tales. But Myrdin transfroms her - into a lady goddess, a boy warrior, and a spy. Without Gwyna, Myrddin will not be able to work the most glorious transformation of all - and turn the leader of a raggle-tagglear-band into King Arthur, the greatest hero of all time.
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Philip Reeve's late 2008 novel HERE LIES ARTHUR is grand. The author knows his King Arthur, Guinevere and all their chroniclers down through the centuries. He also knows that we have very few proven facts about fifth century Britain. Philip Reeve deliberately and brilliantly imagines one (of, no doubt, several) plausible sets of facts which might have provided the historical underpinnings for later imaginings of "the once and future king" Arthur by Chrétien de Troyes, Mallory and Tennyson. ***
Almost in passing, Reeve also presents a broader literary theory about the relation between facts and the myths they beget. In the long run, argues major character Myrddin (Merlin), facts are what story tellers (tale-spinners) make of them. ***
Reeve's Arthur is a selfish, somewhat dim, uninspired petty warlord. He is content adding to his small holdings by taking what he can away from bigger but less ruthless rulers. Myrddin, by contrast, remembers when the Romans ruled Britain and there was peace and prosperity. New barbarian settlers from Germany, the Saxons, are undoing whatever good the Romans created and left behind. In Arthur, Myrddin (as perhaps Seneca had done with Nero before him) sees a malleable instrument by which a determined unwarlike spin-meister can achieve great things, specifically the re-uniting of Britain under an enlightened, noble, God-fearing Christian King. Myrddin's technique is tale-spinning -- building up in songs and minstrel lays a bullying, wife-beating thug into a great hero. Myrddin is there to create and stage a lady of the lake to hand Arthur the great sword Caliburn/Excalibur. Myrddin leaves behind young Gwyn/Gwyna his boy/girl servant apprentice to continue spinning for later generations a dying Arthur after he commands Gwyna (mistaken for Myrddin) to throw the sword Caliburn back into the water whence he had received it. ***
There are things in HERE LIES ARTHUR for readers of every age and taste: rollicking adventure, doomed romance, gender wars, a boy raised as a girl, a girl raised as a boy (the novel's narrator Gwyna/Gwyn), double meanings (Here Lies Arthur = both Here Arthur is buried as well as Arthur tells and begets lies), crisply constructed sentences, lightly worn learning and on and on.
I like HERE LIES ARTHUR for its plausible imaginative reconstruction of the landscape, farm animals, sights and smells of Britain not long after the Roman legions departed in 410 A.D. In that respect HERE LIES ARTHUR reminds of three or four Roman Britain episodes in Rudyard Kipling's PUCK OF POOK HILL (1906). Take the old Roman town of Aquae Sulis, today's Bath, early selected by Arthur as his capital. Philip Reeve takes us inside the grand, crumbling thermal baths. "They'd been a place of power and magic since the hills were young, and however hard the bishop preached against them, his flock kept going to the waters to cure their ills, as well as praying to his god. ... Square-cut pillars, tall as trees, rose from the water. Beneath the mud and moss, the floor was paved with stone; you could feel the hardness of it when you walked and see the paleness of it in places, showing through" (Ch. XV).
For HERE LIES ARTHUR Philip Reeve recently won the prestigious Carnegie medal, joining previous winners like CS Lewis and Walter De La Mare. The Carnegie Medal is awarded for outstanding writing for young readers. HERE LIES ARTHUR a children's book? Perhaps writers nowadays describe their books as being pitched for young readers simply to cash in on the HARRY POTTER boom. Like ALICE IN WONDERLAND, this is a book for all seasons and readers of every age. -OOO-
Publishers Weekly, 2008-10-06 The last word is "Hope," yet Reeve (Mortal Engines) injects deep cynicism into every other phrase of this Arthurian fable. As he tells it, Myrddin the "enchanter" is a charlatan of high degree, possessing no magic but a mastery of storytelling and fraud. Gwyna, the narrator, is perhaps nine years old when Myrddin sees her swim down a river to escape a house set afire by callous, marauding warlord Arthur. Myrddin promptly disguises her first as the Lady of the Lake and then as a boy apprentice. Gwyna soon learns to trust no one, doubt everything and scorn both male and female roles. She even becomes skeptical of the empire-building ambition behind Myrddin's efforts to recast Arthur's unremarkable exploits as the stuff of legend. Nodding to canon and history while not particularly following either (Lancelot and Morgan le Fay are notably absent), Reeve, like Myrddin, turns hallowed myth and supple prose to political purposes, neatly skewering the modern-day cult of spin and the age-old trickery behind it. Smart teens will love this. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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