Here Lies Arthur

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Here Lies Arthur Book Poster Image
Exciting but darkly cynical view of Arthur legend.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

This is a very cynical view of a classic hero story.


Several bloody battles with serious injuries, swords through throats, heads on spikes, ribbons of blood; a disturbing scene of a man beaten to a pulp, including knocking out all of his teeth; another's nose is broken; an arrow is pulled out of a wound; bodies are ripped open, birds pull out their guts; a man beats his wife.


It's clearly implied that several adults have extramarital sex, and a girl sees their naked bodies together; a girl has her first period; some kissing.


Two instances of "s--t," and "bastard" is used correctly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink and get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this tale of medieval warfare is quite violent, including a disturbing scene in which a man is beaten to a pulp, including knocking out all of his teeth. Also, this is a very cynical take on a classic hero tale that is usually intended to highlight human virtues -- there are few on display here, and quite a bit of the opposite.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNast101 March 4, 2015

a poor choice for an Arthurian retelling

If you are really looking for a story that accurately and poignantly retells the story of King Arthur, you will not like this book. There are no heroes in this... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymorgona505 July 6, 2012

for mature childern

Its a good read for kids who like the king author legends but soem breif bits some familys may not find sutibale for kids

What's the story?

After Gwyna escapes when her village is burned, she encounters the bard Myrddin, who serves the war leader Arthur by telling romanticized stories of his exploits. Myrddin takes Gwyna on as a servant and immediately has her pretend to be the Lady of the Lake and give Arthur a sword. He then disguises her as a boy so that she can travel with him. After a few years, though, as she grows older, the disguise becomes untenable, so she becomes a girl again and enters the service of Arthur's wife.

Is it any good?

Cynical teens may love this, while those who are in the thrall of the magic and wonder of the Arthurian Cycle, one of the great epic tales of our culture, will be revolted. But even if the subjects of this story weren't named Arthur and Myrddin (Merlin), there would be no doubt -- this is an exciting story with compelling characters and some big ideas that relate to our time at least as much as to the Middle Ages. These have to do with the role of storytelling in the creation of public perception, how much our ideas about our leaders are shaped by deliberately crafted stories that may bear little resemblance to the truth, and the manipulation of irrational fear in the making of a leader.

But it is about Arthur and Merlin, and one has to wonder what drove the author to demystify and demythologize them in this way. Arthur here is just a brutal thug, little more than a gang leader, who comes to a bad end, and Merlin is a liar and manipulator whose dubious ends don't justify his means. All of the things that have made the tale last for centuries -- magic, might for right, chivalry, the grail, Lancelot -- are stripped away, replaced by a gritty realism that may be no closer to the truth than the myths. What the author has done here will just add to the themes of media manipulation to make this a great discussion book for teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the attempt to demythologize King Arthur. Why do it? Is this likely to be more true than the traditional tales? Is that important? How can we know what is true? What truths do myths and legends teach? What truths does this story tell? Do you think the author was influenced by anything happening today?

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