Here Lies Arthur
Author: Philip Reeve
Reading Level: 5th to 8th grade
This is a book for the Arthurian Legends enthusiasts, and I happen to be one. Having read many re-imagined Arthurian tales, I was completely delighted by this fresh take on the “true story” behind the legends. Reeve’s conceit is a fabulous one: it is all about the power of stories, storytelling, and story tellers. The title alone is worthy of much examination, with its double meanings of “lying dead” and “telling lies.”
At the beginning, I was perplexed by the switches between past tense and present tenses. Slowly, I realized the why and when of such passages. This is a meta-fiction in a slightly different form and it really works for me.
I imagine that, though, this might not be as much fun for some others. If you don’t find piecing together pieces of a complex story puzzle (who’s who and which event eventually “became” which well known tale,) then, you won’t be having as much fun as I do. If you are not usually a sucker for stories that “discuss” the underlying philosophical elements of story-telling or humans’ needs for such elaboration, then, you probably won’t like this book as much as I do. And if you are not totally loving the meta-fiction genre, then you definitely will not enjoy it as I do. Also, if you only want a story with magic and valor, (that’s what I expected, before reading the actual text) then, you definitely will be disappointed. This is one Arthurian tale, featuring heavily the prototype character or Merlin (Myrddin) that definitely has NO magic whatsoever!
What’s even more impressive with this tale is Reeve’s ability to actually tell a cohesive story, with a highly believable and admirable main character, set against a convincing backdrop. (Although one might say that the language of the telling is fairly contemporary 21st century, it is to be excused because the teller could be anyone in any time – everything is apparently made-up anyway.)
To say that I am highly impressed is to put it lightly. I hope many others (especially middle school readers) will find this an intelligent and satisfying read!