Here Lies Arthur

This fresh retelling of Arthur is narrated by Gwynna, a girl who’s taken under Myrddin (Merlin) the Bard’s care after her village is burned down. The author spins a whole new take on the legendary Arthur. For starters, Myrddin is no more a wizard then you or I. He is a conjurer of tricks and slight of hand, with an uncanny ability to weave embellished stories. The magic is easily explained to be nothing more than illusions and telling people what they want to believe is true. For example, Gwynna, who can swim like a fish, becomes the lady of the lake who delivers Arthur the great sword of Caliburn (Excalibur). Myrddin then transforms the girl Gwynna into the boy Gwynn, and she serves by his side.

Those who never tire of Arthur tales will want to add this to their reading list. It is well written and excitedly new. However, die-hards may not like the way their hero is portrayed. Arthur is more brute than kindly king; he cuts off the head of a relative in the heat of anger. I find this passage summarizes the author’s direction quite nicely.

“It started to seem that there were two Arthurs: the hard man who had burned my home, and another one who lived in Myrddin’s stories and spent his time hunting magical stags and fighting giants and brigands. I like the Arthur of the stories better, but some of his bravery and mystery rubbed off on the real man, so that when we came back to Arthur’s place in the harvest and I saw him again, I could not help but think of the time he had captured that glass castle in the Irish Sea, or sliced the Black Witch into two halves, like two tubs. Myrddin said he was not an enchanter, but he worked magic all right. He turned me into a boy, and he turned Arthur into a hero.”

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